Nipah virus

Nipah virus 

According to WHO, the Nipah virus infection is a newly emerging zoonosis, that is, a disease
transmitted from animals to humans. The virus belongs to a new genus termed
Henipavirus (subfamily Paramyxovirinae).

Which animals can spread the disease? 

The natural host of the virus are fruit bats belonging to the family Pteropodidae. In 2004,
humans were affected after eating the date palm contaminated by infected fruit bats. Pigs
can also act as intermediate hosts.

When was it first reported? 

It was first identified in 1998 in a village of Malaysia. The virus is named after this village.

What are the symptoms in humans? 

The symptoms of Nipah are similar to that of influenza: fever, muscle pain, and respiratory
problems. Inflammation of the brain can also cause disorientation. Late onset of
Encephalitis can also occur. Sometimes a person can have an asymptomatic infection, and be a carrier of Nipah and not show any symptoms.

Are there any vaccines? 
Nipah virus, virus

Currently, there are no vaccines for both humans and animals. Intensive supportive care is
given to humans infected by Nipah virus.

Who were affected in India? 

In 2018, infection with the Nipah virus has killed at least 10 people out of 12 confirmed
cases in Kerala. While underlining the dangers of the disease, which has a high mortality
rate, experts stress that there is no reason to panic because outbreaks, usually caused by
fruit bats, have been generally localised.

Why localised 

The reservoir for the virus is fruit bats, which live on trees and rarely come into contact
with humans. Bats can infect pigs, too, another way the disease can spread to humans.
Infected humans can spread it to others they come in contact with.

Containment vs treatment 

Timely laboratory confirmation and aggressive tracing of contacts with patients and
isolation can contain spread of the virus. This is important because there is no effective
specific treatment for the infection. Treatment is symptomatic and supportive. Severely ill
individuals need to be hospitalised and may require intensive care. Because Nipah virus
encephalitis can be transmitted person-to-person, standard infection control practices and proper barrier nursing techniques are important.

High mortality 

The disease has a very high mortality rate, which is the reason for the rush to contain it. In the previous two outbreaks in India, both in West Bengal, there were 42 deaths out of 72
cases in Siliguri in 2001, and five deaths out of 30 who showed the symptoms in Nadia in
2007.

Danger signs 

The virus leads to rapidly progressive encephalitis with or without respiratory
involvement. Nipah encephalitis occurs with fever and headache, followed by drowsiness,
disorientation and mental confusion. Acute encephalitis may progress to coma. Symptoms
include cough during the early part of the disease.

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