Nipah virus is a typical zoonotic virus (means human diseases that are caused by animal pathogens and easily spreads from livestock to humans) and it can be transmitted via infected meals or food particles or effortlessly between humans. It triggers a number of diseases from asymptomatic (subclinical) infection in chronic respiratory disease and deadly encephalitis in infected people.
According to news reports, at least five people have died and many more are battling the deadly Nipah virus (NiV) infection. The Health Government of Kerala has been on a red alert after deaths. That has been the third occurrence in India, since 2001 and 2007.
What Is Nipah Virus?
Nipah virus infection is a zoonotic disease (which means human diseases that are caused by animal pathogens and easily spreads from livestock to humans), which can be caused by direct contact with infected animals.
Where Did The Nipah Virus Come From?
The virus was first discovered in 1998 during an endemic in Malaysia. Pigs have been always the intermediate hosts that transferred the virus to humans at the period. During the outbreak in Bangladesh in 2004, humans were infected with NiV following the consumption of the date, palm, resin contaminated with highly contagious fruit bats.
How Is It Being Transmitted?
The virus’ natural host has been the Pteropodidae family fruit bats, the Pteropus genus. NiV is also capable of infecting pigs and various farm animals with disease. It also can spread through food/water contaminated by infected animals. Human-to-human infection statistics are available, but there is not much study of the same.
Who Is At Most Risk?
People at high risk of getting infected with NiV include:
- Those in touch with pigs and different infected domestic animals.
- Farmers who exposed into contact with bats.
- People eating pig meat and fruits that are bitten by infected animals.
- Contact with people that have already got a Nipah virus infection.
How Is It Normally Diagnosed And Treated?
The rate of fatality is very high, which is why it is regarded as a deadly disease. It was reported to be around 40% in the Malaysian outbreaks, but in Bangladesh and India, it was as high as 75%. Here’s what you need to know:
Symptoms: The symptoms of NiV infection range from asymptomatic infection to acute respiratory syndrome and fatal encephalitis depending on the organ affected.
- The clinical signs include fever, a headache, dizziness, vomiting, myalgia (muscle pain), drowsiness, disorientation or confusion and convulsions.
- Around 40% patients show respiratory symptoms and more than 50% report nervous dysfunction and low level of consciousness.
- Stiffness of the neck and photophobia (light sensitivity) are also seen in some instances.
- In severe conditions, in 24 – 28 hours, the symptoms can lead to a coma.
Incubation Period: Once infected with the virus, the symptoms might take anywhere within 4 – 15 days to appear, known as the incubation period.
Diagnosis: The virus is detected in the blood of an infected person. Hence, blood tests such as ELISA (enzyme linked immunosorbent assay) and PCR (polymerase chain reaction) to evaluate the existence of the virus throughout the blood, virus isolation tests and nucleic acid amplification tests should be used. However, if the brain is affected, then lumbar puncture is advised for diagnosis.
Treatment: The primary treatment for humans is intensive care. There is no specific treatment for the NiV infection.
Vaccine: Unfortunately, till now there is no vaccine for NiV either for humans or animals.
Can It Be Stopped Or Prevented?
Yes, it is all possible. Nipah virus infection may be prevented by following these measures:
- Limit exposure to endemic regions of sick pigs and bats.
- Do not drink toddy or raw fruit juices.
- Avoid eating fruits contaminated by animal saliva or urine.
- Stay away from pigs and pig handlers.
- Consume only home cooked food and wash and cook all fruits and vegetables properly.
- Maintain personal hygiene, sanitize and wash hands thoroughly.
- Use masks such as N95 mask while travelling or working in public places.
Just rush to any nearest hospital immediately if you experience any symptoms of NiV infection without any hesitation.