Everything You Should Know About the Nipah Virus Outbreak
The Kerala health department is on a high alert as the deadly Nipah virus has caused a public health scare. While little is known about the Nipah virus in India, it is spreading fast in the region and has a reported mortality rate of 70 percent. The first case of Nipah virus was reported in 1998 in Malaysia. It was primarily caused in pigs and transferred to humans. Nipah Virus is not an airborne transmission infection, and only affects those who come in direct contact with the infected body. The WHO claims the virus to be highly lethal with an average fatality rate of 75 percent.
The incubation period of Nipah virus is between 5-14 days, after which the symptoms get highly visible. The virus is associated with inflammation of the brain, which could lead to fever and often state of disorientation, confusion and persistent drowsiness. The infected person can go in a state of coma within 24-48 hours. Many patients also show pulmonary, neurological and respiratory signs after getting infected by the virus. Some other symptoms of Nipah virus are:
- Stomach pain
- Blurred vision
There’s a high possibility that the patient might contract encephalitis, which is an acute infection of the brain.
Diagnosing Nipah Virus
Serology, which is a diagnostic examination of blood serum, can help in diagnosing the infection. The other ways of diagnosing Nipah virus are:
- Histopathology - A microscopic study of tissues
- Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) to look for viral DNA
- Virus isolation
- Upon diagnosis of Nipah virus, ELISA, Serum neutralization test, and RT-PCR might be carried out to confirm the infection
The organism that causes Nipah virus is an RNA virus (virus that has ribonucleic acid as genetic material) of the family Paramyxoviridae, genus Henipavirus. The disease spreads through fruit bats, also called as Flying Foxes, who are natural reservoir hosts of Nipah virus. The virus spreads when pigs or other animals consume the half-eaten fruits left by the fruit bat. The virus is present in bat urine, feces, saliva and birthing fluids, so a direct contact to any of these could also result in an infection. The transmission in humans takes place in direct contact with infected bats, pigs, and other animals or contaminated fruits.
Treating Nipah Virus
As there is no particular vaccine for the treatment of Nipah virus, intensive supportive care is the only way to treat the infection. Though the drug Ribavirin is effective in the treatment of viruses in vitro, its clinical efficacy on humans is still unknown. The only possible way to treat the problem is by identifying its early symptoms and seeking the right medical help.
As they say, prevention is better than cure, here’s a list of dos and don’ts to avoid getting infected by Nipah Virus.
- Avoid direct contact with bats, pigs, and humans in endemic areas
- Wear masks and gloves when visiting or attending a patient infected with the virus
- Avoid contact with the dead body of the deceased who was infected with Nipah virus. Utmost care must be taken while bathing the dead body
- Do not drink raw date palm sap
- Don’t consume fruits and vegetables that have fallen on the ground
What Else You Need to Know About the Nipah Virus
- Nipah virus is one of the deadliest among viral-borne diseases. The fatality rate could be anywhere between 75 percent to 100 percent
- The infected person has fever, weakness and feels lethargic as the virus affects the brain
- Nipah virus infection is an example of zoonotic disease, where the disease can be transmitted from animals to humans. The chances of humans getting infected, however, reduce if adequate antibiotics are given to infected animals
- Nipah virus mutates like the H1N1 virus. If an individual receives swine flu or influenza vaccination this year, its effect might not last until next year because the virus will have adapted or mutated by that time
“Health is not valued till sickness comes” – Thomas Fuller
Most of us have a fast-paced life where health often takes a backseat. Blame the lifestyle changes or the hectic work schedules, the fact remains that our body is subject to several health issues because of all this. To tackle such unforeseen health problems, it’s a must to have a health plan that not just takes care of your medical bills, but also provides a lump sum amount that you require to financially support your health expenses, during the period you stay away from work, and recover at home.