Nipah virus, a newly identified paramyxovirus caused a severe outbreak of encephalitis in Malaysia with high fatalities. We report an open-label trial of ribavirin in 140 patients, with 54 patients who were managed prior to the availability of ribavirin or refused treatment as control. There were 45 deaths (32%) in the ribavirin arm; 29 deaths (54%) occurred in the control arm. This represents a 36% reduction in mortality (p = 0.011). There was no associated serious side effect. This study suggests that ribavirin is able to reduce the mortality of acute Nipah encephalitis.