Nipah virus: The death threat that grips Kerala

Kerala is on a high medical alert as Nipah Virus has taken the state in its fatal control. With every passing hour, the health toll is rising at an alarming rate because of the infection. As reported by Kerala Health Minister, as many as 10 people’s lives have been claimed by Nipah Virus whereas there are 2 more patients who are under critical medical surveillance. The northern districts of Kerala, Kozhikode, and Malappuram are the ones that are hardly hit by the influence of the lethal virus.

Let’s first get to know what Nipah Virus is and all the details associated with the deadly disease

What is Nipah Virus?

A newly emerging zoonosis, Nipah Virus (NiV) infection causes severe diseases in both humans and animals. Fruit bats of the Pteropodidae Family, Pteropus genus are the natural host of the virus.

Origin of Nipah Virus:

The Nipah Virus was first identified in 1998 during a severe outbreak of the disease at Kampung Sungai Nipah, Malaysia. In this case, pigs were the intermediate hosts and pig farmers were affected in Malaysia and Singapore. The pig farmers became infected with encephalitis.

The next outbreak of Nipah Virus infection took place in 2004 in Bangladesh. However, in this case, there were no intermediate carriers of the disease, but humans got directly infected by drinking date palm sap that were already contaminated by the infected fruit bats. 

Past Nipah Virus Cases in India:

This is however not the first time that India has been a victim of Nipah Virus. 

  • Back in 2001, there was an outbreak of the disease in Siliguri (West Bengal), where out of 66 infected cases, 45 had succumbed to death.  
  • The next instance was in 2007 when Nadia in West Bengal was victimised with Nipah Virus resulting in 5 deaths. 

Transmission of Nipah Virus:

The natural host of Nipah Virus are fruit bats of the Pteropodidae Family. Whereas the pigs are the intermediate transmitters of the disease. 

Humans get infected by direct contact to pigs (pig meat) or eating fruits that have been contaminated by these bats. The disease starts spreading among humans through contact with NiV infected people. 

Symptoms of Nipah Virus:

The incubation period of Nipah Virus takes about 5 to 14 days. The symptoms start showing thereafter.

  • Symptoms of Influenza (fever, muscle pain)
  • Acute Respiratory syndrome
  • Fatal Encephalitis
  • Inflammation of the brain that leads to disorientation

With the onset of these symptoms, a person can slip into coma in the next 24-48 hours.

Diagnosis of Nipah Virus:

Nipah Virus is a super-fast contaminating disease and has therefore been classified as biosecurity level (BSL) 4 agent. The tests are carried out in special labs at National Virology Institute, Pune. 

Blood and body fluid sample tests are done to detect the infection.

Treatment of Nipah Virus:

No vaccines have yet been developed to treat Nipah Virus. Intensive Care treatment can be used to treat the virus. 

Prevention of Nipah Virus:

  • Don’t drink toddy brewed in open containers near palm trees.
  • Stay away from the infected. Keep the person in isolation.
  • Avoid going near pigsty.
  • Don’t eat raw fruits and veggies. Always boil and cook well before consumption.
  • Washing hands thoroughly, eating from clean utensils, and maintaining personal hygiene is important.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a N95 mask while commuting to public places. 

The outbreak has started recently, It is the sole responsibility of us to identify symptoms and visit the doctor. Though a tough decision, but you must stay away from people who are infected even if it's your family. 

Last but not the least, ZOYLO wishes to pay special homage to Kerala Nurse Lini Puthuserry. She is the ‘hero’ nurse who have succumbed to this fatal infection while treating a family diagnosed with Nipah Virus. Her heroic sacrifice will forever be remembered and respected.