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Nipah Virus -What you all need to know about the virus

20 September, 2021 Anuja Sahi

Nipah Virus (NiV) has been identified as a zoonotic (animal-to-human) virus that can potentially be transferred through contaminated food or directly between people. It causes a wide spectrum of symptoms in infected humans most of the time leading to death, ranging from asymptomatic (subclinical) infection to acute respiratory sickness and deadly encephalitis. The virus can also cause severe sickness in animals like pigs, causing producers to lose a lot of money.

Although there have been a few outbreaks in Asia, the Nipah virus infects a wide range of animals and causes severe sickness and death in humans, making it a public health concern.

However, Nipah Virus is not new to us, in 2018; we covered how Kerala, a state in Southern India, battled the deadly Nipah Virus. A joyful music video was even created by local filmmakers and musicians. Three years later, the state is dealing with yet another Nipah outbreak-the third in as many years- and it couldn’t have come at a worse moment. Since the epidemic began, Kerala, which is noted for its palm-lined beaches on the Arabian Sea, has seen a caseload of 4 million coronavirus infections.

Fruit bats belonging to the family of Pteropodidae- also commonly known as the “flying fox” – are considered to be the natural carriers of Nipah. They also transmit the virus to other animals, namely pigs, dogs, cats, horses, goats, and sheep. The virus is a serious matter of concern for both India and the entire world.

Symptoms of Nipah Virus

A person infected with the NIPAH Virus can get surrounded by the following symptoms:

However, the symptoms are not limited to this extent only, in later stages the person gets:

  • Swelling in brain cells
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion,
  • And possible chances of coma,
  • Death (in serious cases)

Past threat created by Nipah Virus

The Nipah virus was found during an outbreak among pig farmers in Malaysia. Multiple outbreaks have occurred since then, all of which have occurred in South and Southeast Asia. It is believed to have killed about 260 individuals in total.

The outbreak of the Nipah Virus in 2004 was again a major setback for the entire world, causing a threat among human beings. Back in 2004, the Nipah virus spread in humans and the cause of widespread was fruit bats. Though it is less contagious in nature as compared to Coronavirus still it has created widespread fear among people as it has a higher mortality rate.

Evidence of the virus has been identified in a number of countries, including Cambodia, Ghana, Indonesia, Madagascar, the Philippines, and Thailand, in the recognized natural reservoir (Pteropus bat species) as well as several other bat species.

Causes of Transmission

The majority of human infections during the first known outbreak in Malaysia, which also afflicted Singapore, were caused by direct contact with sick pigs or their contaminated tissues. Transmission is suspected to have occurred by unprotected contact with pig fluids or unprotected contact with diseased animal tissue.

While in the case of outbreaks in India and Bangladesh, the consumption of fruits or fruit products like raw date palm juice, contaminated by urine or saliva from infected fruit bats was among the most probable cause of infection. Other sources have also confirmed human-to-human transmission of Nipah Virus, for example, a person giving care to the infected person of Nipah Virus.

A recent case was of a Kerala boy who died of Nipah Virus on Sept 5, followed by a high fever. He was just 12 years old, thus this also shows that there is no age limit or prescribed age that can be affected by the virus. The two health workers taking care of the infected boy have also been diagnosed with similar symptoms and hospitalized in the hospital.

Possible diagnosis of the Nipah Virus

While the initial signs and symptoms of the virus are unspecified, the later stage of the virus can be diagnosed with clinical history, and the other main test includes real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). Since the initial signs and symptoms are not easily identified, hence this can hinder the diagnosis process in the infected person.

Treatment

Like Corona Virus, there is no such vaccine, drugs available to cure the infected person. However; efforts are being made on a priority basis to find the treatment and stop the mass spreading of the deadly virus.