Nipah virus is a highly virulent zoonotic pathogen that can be transmitted between humans. Understanding the dynamics of person-to-person transmission is key to designing effective interventions.
We used data from all Nipah virus cases identified during outbreak investigations in Bangladesh from April 2001 through April 2014 to investigate case-patient characteristics associated with onward transmission and factors associated with the risk of infection among patient contacts.
Of 248 Nipah virus cases identified, 82 were caused by person-to-person transmission, corresponding to a reproduction number (i.e., the average number of secondary cases per case patient) of 0.33 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.19 to 0.59). The predicted reproduction number increased with the case patient’s age and was highest among patients 45 years of age or older who had difficulty breathing (1.1; 95% CI, 0.4 to 3.2). Case patients who did not have difficulty breathing infected 0.05 times as many contacts (95% CI, 0.01 to 0.3) as other case patients did. Serologic testing of 1863 asymptomatic contacts revealed no infections. Spouses of case patients were more often infected (8 of 56 [14%]) than other close family members (7 of 547 [1.3%]) or other contacts (18 of 1996 [0.9%]). The risk of infection increased with increased duration of exposure of the contacts (adjusted odds ratio for exposure of >48 hours vs. ≤1 hour, 13; 95% CI, 2.6 to 62) and with exposure to body fluids (adjusted odds ratio, 4.3; 95% CI, 1.6 to 11).
Increasing age and respiratory symptoms were indicators of infectivity of Nipah virus. Interventions to control person-to-person transmission should aim to reduce exposure to body fluids. (Funded by the National Institutes of Health and others.)