The National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has issued high alert across India after an outbreak of the Nipah Virus (NiV) epidemic in Kerala which claimed around 10 lives in two weeks, and more than 35 people are undergoing treatment in various hospitals. The state govt also issued an advisory on Wednesday asking tourists to avoid visiting the four districts of Kozhikode, Malappuram, and Kannur.
Nipah virus is an unknown virus for many. Here is what the virus is all about.
What is NiV?
The virus appears to have originated in fruit bats, but somewhere along the line, it’s picked up the rare ability to jump hosts. Nipah Virus is a newly spreading zoonosis that causes severe disease in both animals and humans. First detected in Malaysian village of Sungai Nipah in 1998, At that time, it was primarily caused in pigs and through them got transferred to humans. Soon, 300 people were infected, and 100 of them died. The only way to restrain the outbreak was to kill millions of the country’s pigs at that time.
The virus can be spread through infected bats, pigs or humans who have been affected. In 2004, people who consumed the fruit infected by the bat also caught the sickness as well. Another incident involved people catching the virus from a family well into which a dead bat had fallen. It then promptly spread within the family and town who had contact with each other.
Signs and symptoms
Experts say that Nipah Virus is an airborne transmission epidemic and can affect those who come in direct contact with infected bodies. It has a range of clinical presentations, from asymptomatic infection to the acute respiratory syndrome and fatal encephalitis. Some common signs and symptoms are fever, vomiting, headache, and severe breathing problems which can last up to 7-10 days. Watching out for respiratory ailment during the early stages is also a must.
These early symptoms then pass into drowsiness, disorientation, and confusion. If not taken care of, within one or two days, this virus can cause coma and even death. Researches by the WHO puts the death rate as high as 75%.
Prevention and cure
There is no vaccine for Nipah virus, and it can only be administered through intensive care trying to contain its severe symptoms. Since drinking raw date palm sap infected by a bat can also cause Nipah Virus, it is safe to say that you should stop from consuming date palm for some time.
Hospitals also need to raise knowledge about symptoms and transmission to avoid human-to-human infections in such environments. Hospital workers caring for patients should put in precautions including washing hands. Wearing a gown, mask, cap, and gloves are also suggested. If you feel discomfort when in and around an infected region, get yourself tested quickly!