The entire nation in general and the state of Kerala, in particular, is on high alert following the outbreak of the Nipah virus infection in the state. This deadly disease has already claimed the lives of 10 people in the state, including that of a nurse who was exposed to the virus while tending to an infected patient. The Nipah virus has a mortality rate of 70 per cent, making its containment a top priority for the government. Here are some important details regarding this virus.
Nipah virus (NiV) is a newly-emerging zoonosis, i.e. a disease that is transmitted from animals to humans and causes severe disease in both. It belongs to a genus called Henipavirus. Named after the Kampung Sungai Nipah village in Malaysia, where it was first identified in 1998, it affects the brain of a person. In 2004, some people in Bangladesh got infected with this virus after consuming palm sap contaminated by fruit bats.
According to WHO, the natural hosts of this virus are the fruit bats, also known as the flying fox bats, belonging to the Pteropodidae family. Pigs can also act as intermediate hosts.
Some of the ways in which this disease spreads are:
• Consumption of fruits or berries contaminated by infected bats
• Direct contact with infected pigs and bats
• Contact with other NiV infected people and/or their bodily fluids like saliva
The symptoms of NiV are similar to those of any viral infection, including:
NiV can be diagnosed by conducting a few tests. They are:
Currently, there is no vaccination or a cure of a permanent nature to combat this virus. Intensive supportive care is the primary treatment for this disease. Ribavarin, an anti-viral drug used in the treatment of Hepatitis C may have some effect on this disease.
Avoid consumption of fruits and berries which are left over after being bitten by bats and other animals.
Avoid consumption of palm sap or toddy collected from areas where fruit bats are found.
Infected individuals need to be hospitalized and isolated immediately.
Keep water sources clean and covered.
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