The spread of Nipah Virus in the south Indian state of Kerala has affected the activities in the state in a huge way. Schools and colleges remain shut and business too has been affected badly. People in the region are avoiding travel and due to this, state transport corporation on an average is losing INR 0.2 million per day from the Nipah-affected areas, according to the sources. As of June 1, the virus has affected 18 people and claimed 16 lives. A senior official from the directorate of health services said around 2,000 people who interacted with Nipah-infected have been kept under observation of the health department and two persons who tested positive for the virus are stable and undergoing treatment at the Kozhikode Medical College Hospital in Kerala.
What is Nipah Virus?
Nipah Virus (NiV) as per the World Health Organisation (WHO) is a newly emerging zoonosis that causes a severe disease in both animals and humans. According to WHO, the natural hosts of the virus are fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family, Pteropus genus. The virus can be transferred through infected bats, pigs or humans who have been infected. In 2004, humans who consumed the date palm sap infected by fruit bats caught the virus as well.
When and where was it first discovered?
The virus was first discovered in Kampung Sungai Nipah village, in Malaysia in the year 1998. At that time, it was primarily caused in pigs and through them it got transferred to humans. Nipah Virus infected as many as 265 people then, out of which 40 pc were taken under intensive care due to the infection having spread severely. In Bangladesh in 2004, humans became infected with NiV as a result of consuming date palm sap that had been contaminated by the infected fruit bats. In 2007 the virus killed five people in Nadia district in West Bengal (a state in eastern India). Human-to-human transmission was reported in Bangladesh and India.
What are the symptoms of the virus?
According to the experts, Nipah Virus is an airborne transmission infection and can affect those who come in direct contact with contaminated bodies.
The virus is usually associated with inflammation of the brain due to which severe days of fever can often lead to a state of confusion, disorientation and even persistent drowsiness. If not taken care of, these symptoms can even cause a coma in a span of 24-48 hours. There are many patients who show neurological, respiratory and pulmonary signs as well. Also experts say people should look out for Influenza-like symptoms which include a fever, sore throat, headaches, vomiting and muscle pain. The symptoms can last up to 7-10 days. One should also watch out for respiratory illness during the early stages. The virus can kill between 40 pc to 100 pc of those infected by it and more than 60 pc of this infection in humans comes from animals.
How can it be prevented?
There is no particular vaccine or drug available that can cure a person suffering from Nipah virus. The only way to treat this virus is through intensive supportive care. Hospitals also need to raise awareness about symptoms and transmission to avoid human-to-human infections. Detection is another issue with NiV and anyone who feels the symptoms should get tested thoroughly from a recognised facility.
A person should avoid direct contact with infected pigs, bats and humans in prevalent regions. Professionals from health department attending to such patients should take precautionary measures, such as wearing masks and gloves. People should avoid consuming partly eaten fruits and unpasteurised fruit juices. One should maintain high level of personal hygiene and wash their hands at regular intervals. Avoid direct contact with infected people.
The National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is monitoring the situation in various States through (Integrated Disease Control Surveillance Programme (IDSP)) network.