NIPAH VIRUS – What You Need to Know?

WHAT IS NIPAH VIRUS?
Nipah Virus Infection is a new type of infection that is transmitted from animals to humans. This type of infection is called as Zoonosis. Fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family are the natural host of Nipah virus.

HISTORY
a) First identified in the year 1999 in a small Malaysian Village called as Nipah
b) Several Outbreaks in West Bengal from 2001 to 2018
c) Recently, outbreaks are reported from Kerala in 2018 and 2019

A COMMUNICABLE DISEASE?
Yes, Nipah virus infection is communicable. The virus spreads from animals to humans, especially bats and pigs. Bats easily infect the fruits on trees and the raw date palm sap usually tapped from trees. The virus spreads through the saliva, urine and excreta of the infected bats to the fruits and the raw date palm sap. If humans eat the infected fruit or the infected raw date palm sap, they naturally get infected. Consequently, the infected humans might easily spread the Niah virus to other humans.

SYMPTOMS
According to World Health Organization (WHO), “there is no treatment or vaccine available for either people or animals. The primary treatment for humans is supportive care.”

Nipah Virus infection easily may kill people because of its fatality risk of 10-75%. Nipah Virus undergoes through an incubation period of 4 to 18 days. And the symptoms may show up any time between 3 and 14 days.

Nipah virus infection in humans causes a range of clinical presentations, from asymptomatic infection (subclinical) to acute respiratory infection and fatal encephalitis.

Human respiratory and central nervous system are easily affected by Nipah virus infection. The virus has the potential to pass through the blood-brain barrier ad can be found in the brain and spinal fluids, resulting in encephalitis and brainstem dysfunction. Persistent convulsions and personality changes are also observed.

Following are the symptoms:

a) Fever
b) Headache
c) Dizziness
d) Disorientation
e) Stomach pain and vomiting
f) Muscle pain
g) Mental confusion
h) Convulsions
i) Respiratory symptoms quite similar to that of influenza, such as cough.

PREVENTION
Following are the immediate measures you can take:

a) Avoid visiting the endemic area
b) Avoid fruits that are fallen off from the trees
c) Do not consume fruits bitten by bats or birds.
d) Wash thoroughly fruits and vegetables before eating.
e) Avoid sap of raw date palms
f) Avoid drinks made near the palm trees
g) Avoid direct contact with bats or pigs in the epidemic areas
h) Maintain absolute general hygiene, wash your hands frequently
i) Maintain quarantine from the infected individual
j) Stay home if you are sick
k) Handle and prepare food safely
l) Ensure distance from the dead; avoid kissing or hugging the person who died of Nipah infection.

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