A DEADLY virus spread from bats and pigs is causing flu-like symptoms and even brain damage among patients in a southern state of India. Here is what you need to know about the symptoms of the Nipah Virus and how it is spread.
What is Nipah Virus Infection?
Nipah virus (NiV) infection is a newly emerging zoonosis that causes severe disease in both animals and humans. The natural host of the virus are fruit bats of the Pteropodidae Family, Pteropus genus.
This virus was first identified in Malaysia and Singapore in 1998. At that time, it was primarily caused in pigs and through them got transferred to humans. Nipah Virus infected as many as 265 people then, out of which 40 per cent were taken under intensive care due to the infection having spread severely.
Signs and symptoms of Nipah Virus
Some common signs and symptoms of NiV are headache, fever, nausea, dizziness, drowsiness and mental issues such as confusion. These symptoms can last up to 7-10 days. Watching out for respiratory illness during the early stages is also a must.
The virus affects both the respiratory and neurological systems. In recent outbreaks in the Indian subcontinent, the lungs are often affected (75% of the cases). Patients may go through increasing breathlessness and may progress to severe oxygen hunger rapidly. It can also progress to encephalitis – which is an inflammation of the brain – and patients can slip into a coma. Encephalitis has a high rate of death and survivors can have long – term neurological issues such as a seizure disorder or personality changes.
How Nipah Virush Can Spread?
Outbreaks such as NIPAH are likely to become more common. Population density will make human-animal interactions more likely, increasing the chances of virus cross-infection. There is an increasingly recognized phenomenon of virus ‘jumping’ species. This means that bugs that primarily affected animal or bird species mutate with time and human beings become their new hosts. Swine and avail flu are examples of this phenomenon.
Usually the infection is caught through direct contact with pigs, for example by pig farmers.
Prevention & Treatment from Nipah Virus
– Avoid close (unprotected) physical contact with infected people
– Wear NH95-grade and higher masks
– Wash hands regularly with soap
– Avoid consuming partly eaten fruits or unpasteurised fruit juices
– Avoid being around anima pens
– Boil freshly collected date palm juice before consuming
– Thoroughly wash and peel fruits before consuming
– Maintain your and children’s personal hygiene
– Cover your household properly
Avoiding direct contact with infected pigs, bats and humans in endemic regions should be practiced. Health professionals attending to such patients should take precautionary measures, such as wearing masks and gloves. If you feel uneasiness when in and around an infected region, get yourself tested immediately!
There is currently no vaccine or drug available for humans or animals and the main treatment is intensive support care for those who are suffering from respiratory and neurologic problems.
From contracting the disease to the onset of the symptoms, the incubation period ranges between 4 and 14 days. In some case, an incubation period of 45 days has also been reported.
People are expected to make full recovery after surviving acute encephalitis. However, survivors have shown long-term neurological conditions like seizure disorder and personality changes. After recovery, a small number of people are seen to have relapsed or developed delayed onset encephalitis.
There has not yet been an official statement from Public Health England about travel to Kerala, but the risks to travelers are likely to be extremely low.
You can check the progress of Nipah Virus on WHO website here.
Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information.