Deadly Nipah Virus: All About Prevention, Symptoms & Treatment

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Nipah is "top of the list" of 10 priority diseases the WHO has identified for the next major outbreak. What is Nipah virus? Know the symptoms of NiV, how it spreads or get transmitted & how can you prevent it. Transmission of Nipah virus occurs after direct contact with infected bats, pigs & NiV infected patients

Nipah virus was first identified in Kampung Sungai Nipah, Malaysia in 1998. The pigs were the intermediate hosts during that outbreak. Around 1.1 million pigs had to be killed to control the outbreak. However, it is not necessary to have an intermediate host during Nipah Virus outbreak. Nipah is “top of the list” of 10 priority diseases the WHO has identified for the next major outbreak.

Nipah is considered a newly emerging deadly virus – scientists only found out that it could jump from bats to other species, including humans, within the past 20 years. The disease is currently incurable and can be transmitted from person to person. It has killed between 40% and 75% of infected people in most outbreaks.  The natural host of the virus are fruit bats of the Pteropodidae Family, Pteropus genus.

Deadly Nipah virus claims victims in India

Nipah Virus
Nipah Virus

Health officials in the south Indian state of Kerala say nine people have died in confirmed and suspected cases of the deadly Nipah virus.

Three victims have tested positive for the virus in the past fortnight. The results from the remaining six samples will be available later on Monday.

Twenty-five others have been hospitalised with symptoms of the infection in Kozhikode, officials said.

Kerala nurse taking care of Nipah patients dies

Nipah Virus
Nipah Virus

Lini (31), the nurse at Perambra Taluk Hospital who died on Monday (21 Monday 2018)  after possibly getting exposed to the deadly virus while tending to a Nipah virus +infected patient, died without even getting a chance to bid adieu to her loved ones, including her two kids and husband.

With Lini’s death, the toll has now gone up to 10. On Sunday, the toll had risen to nine with the death of six more persons who had shown symptoms of the disease. Of this, two deaths were reported from Kozhikode and four from Malappuramdistrict.

Points To Know About Nipah Virus

Nipah Virus
Nipah Virus

* Nipah virus affects the brain An infected person will have fever, weakness and lethargy. Nipah virus causes a rare brain fever that spreads from fruit bats to livestock as well as humans.

* This virus infection is an example of a zoonotic disease  where animal diseases can be transmitted to people. In a zoonotic disease, the chances of a human being getting the disease will be lesser if the animal is given adequate antibiotics.

* It is in the 2018 WHO list of viruses that could potentially pose a huge health scare. There is no vaccination available for Nipah as of now.

* The virus was first identified among pigs in Kampung Sungai Nipah, Malaysia in 1998

* There have been cases of human-to-human transmission too. However, it is still being studied whether the transmission happened because everyone was exposed to the same infected person or if the same source passed on the infection to another person.

* The Nipah virus has a tendency to adapt or mutate, like the H1N1 virus. If you get a swine flu or influenza vaccination this year, the effect of the vaccination may not be last through to the next year because the virus would have mutated by then. And that is why such viruses are very deadly. Some of the deadliest diseases in the world are viral-borne diseases.

When was Nipah virus first identified?

Nipah Virus
Nipah Virus

The infection was first identified in 1999 during an outbreak of encephalitis and respiratory illness among pig farmers and people with close contact with pigs in Malaysia and Singapore. Nearly 300 human cases with over 100 deaths were reported in that outbreak. In order to stop it, more than a million pigs were euthanized, causing tremendous trade loss for Malaysia.

Symptoms

The Nipah virus or NiV infection has symptoms like breathing trouble, inflammation of the brain, fever, headache, drowsiness, disorientation and delirium. A patient can slip into coma within 48 hours. NiV can also infect pigs and other domestic animals. The natural hosts of the virus are fruit bats of the Pteropodidae Family, Pteropus genus.

The virus is transmitted through direct contact with infected bats, pigs, or from other NiV-infected people. Doctors advise that fruits strewn on the ground should not be eaten, for safety.

How does Nipah spread or get transmitted?

Nipah Virus
Nipah Virus

The disease spreads through fruit bats or ‘flying foxes,’ of the genus Pteropus, who are natural reservoir hosts of the Nipah and Hendra viruses. The virus is present in bat urine and potentially, bat faeces, saliva, and birthing fluids. Presumably, the first incidence of Nipah virus infection occurred when pigs in Malaysian farms came in contact with the bats who had lost their habitats due to deforestation. Furthermore, transmission between farms may be due to fomites – or carrying the virus on clothing, equipment, boots, vehicles.

Treatment

Nipah Virus
Nipah Virus

* The primary treatment for human cases is intensive supportive care. Standard infection control practices and proper barrier nursing techniques are important in preventing infections as Nipah virus encephalitis can be transmitted person-to-person.

* The drug ribavirin has been shown to be effective against the viruses in vitro, but human investigations to date have been inconclusive and the clinical usefulness of ribavirin remains uncertain, according to CDC.

* Take caution to ensure that food is not contaminated by bats. Take precautions to ensure bats don’t eat the food or drop feces on it. Do not eat fruits that may have been bitten by bats.

* Do not drink toddy that is brewed in open containers near palm trees.

* It is also important to safeguard oneself after coming in contact with someone who has contracted the virus. It is important to maintain a distance from the patient, to sanitise and wash hands thoroughly.

* Clothes, utensils and items typically used in the toilet or bathroom, like buckets and mugs, should be cleaned separately and maintained hygienically.

* It is important to cover one’s face while transporting the dead body of anyone who dies after contracting Nipah fever. The post also says that relatives should try refrain from hugging or kissing the dead person and should take utmost care while bathing the body before cremation or burial. (Source here).

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