The south Indian state, Kerala has been put on high alert after nine people have died of a mysterious viral attack in Kozhikode, with three deaths attributing to Nipah virus (NiV). On Sunday (May 20, 2018), the National Institute of Virology, Pune, confirmed the presence of Nipah virus in three samples that were already sent to the institute.
What causes Nipah virus? How does it spread?
Nipah virus (NiV) infection is a newly emerging zoonosis that causes severe disease in both animals and humans. The natural host of the virus are fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family, Pteropus genus. The organism which causes Nipah virus encephalitis is an RNA virus of the family; Paramyxoviridae, genus Henipavirus. NiV is closely related to Hendra virus, which is an acute, viral respiratory infection.
The disease spreads through fruit bats, also known as ‘flying foxes’, of the genus Pteropus – natural reservoir hosts of the Nipah and Hendra
viruses. Transmission of the virus to humans takes place via direct contact with infected bats, infected pigs, or from other NiV infected people.
The primary treatment for human cases is Intensive Supportive Care.
What are the signs and symptoms of Nipah virus?
The NiV infection in humans is linked to encephalitis – inflammation of the brain- characterized by fever, headache, drowsiness, disorientation, mental confusion, respiratory troubles, coma, and potential death. According to the studies, the symptoms can progress to coma within 24-48 hours. In some cases, patients may develop a respiratory illness during the early part of their infections.
How is Nipah virus treated? Is there a cure for NiV?
In humans, the primary treatment for Nipah virus is intensive supportive care. The drug ribavirin has been shown to be effective against the
viruses in vitro. However, the clinical efficacy of ribavirin remains inconclusive to date in human trials.
Unfortunately, there is no specific NiV treatment or vaccine for either humans or animals.
Since human-to-human transmission of Nipah virus has been reported, the “standard infection control practices” are important in preventing the spread of the disease.
How can you prevent getting Nipah virus infection?
Avoid exposure to sick pigs and bats in endemic areas.
Do not drink raw date palm sap.
Do not consume fruits that have fallen on to the ground.
Avoid travelling to the affected area.
Use medical hand gloves/face masks while dealing with persons suffering from fever with above symptoms.
Post dealing with affected/suspected person, sanitize the exposed body parts with soap and running water.
Rush for the medical help if any of the above symptoms persists.