Nipah Virus: What Is It and How to stop It
With toll from Nipah virus rising and fear psychosis gripping people across Kerala and rest of South India, it’s necessary to understand this deadly virus and its spread pattern and symptoms in detail.
Origin of Nipah
This RNA virus was first identified in 1998 at Kampung Sungai Nipah, in Malaysia. At that time, pigs were the intermediate hosts. But, in subsequent NiV outbreaks, there were no intermediate hosts. In 2004 in Bangladesh, humans got this virus by consuming date palm sap that had been contaminated by infected fruit bats. Two outbreaks of Nipah happened prior in India in West Bengal in 2001 and 2007 killing 50.
The matter of concern comes from the fact that no drugs are available in market that can kill this emerging zoonotic virus.
Facts known about Nipah Virus
- Nipah Infection will spread from person to person only if there is close contact with body fluids of the infected person
- This virus is truly deadly. It can kill between 40 to 100% of those affected
- The virus has an incubation period of 4 to 14 days. The trouble point is early symptoms matches with that of with common cold or general viral infection
- Symptom includes acute respiratory infection (mild, severe), and fatal encephalitis
- In the current outbreak the lungs seems to be more affected. Patients experience severe breathlessness
- Encephalitis and seizures occur in only severe cases, progressing to coma within 24 to 48 hours
- In the absence of drugs and vaccine, the only option available is to provide support care and if needed provide respiratory support
- Nipah virus is on the WHO list of Blueprint priority diseases
- Precautionary measure includes totally keeping the infected person in isolation
- Care givers must use gloves, masks and disposable gears
- Since human-to-human transmission through nosocomial (hospital-acquired infection )route have been reported, contact and droplet precautions should be used in addition to standard precautions
- To reduce the risk of transmission to people, culling of infected animals is suggested
- To prevent bat-to-human transmission fruits should be thoroughly washed and peeled before consumption
- Avoid drinking toddy brewed in open containers
- Stay away from infection prone area
- While handling sick animals gloves and other protective wear should be used