Nipah Virus — All you need to know

Diseases, ailments and infections have troubled humans since times immemorial. Every now and then, a new disease keeps spreading and infecting thousands of people just due to human negligence. Presently, the Nipah Virus threat looms large. By the means of this blog, we wish to spread awareness about the issue.
Nipah Virus

The recent outbreak of NiV has flummoxed the nation

Recently reported outbreak of Nipah(NiV) virus in Kerala has raised concerns all over the country. This deadly virus has claimed 14 lives in Kerela. It is observed that the fatality rate of this disease is quite high which means death is to diagnosed ratio is large. So, it is very necessary to have proper knowledge of the disease and it’s causing agents. This blog from Team Technothlon aims to provide the necessary facts and also the preventive measures that everyone should know.

History of NiV:

This is not the first time that India is witnessing the outbreak of Nipah Virus. According to the World Health Organization(WHO), Nipah virus was identified during an outbreak of disease that took place in Malaysia in 1998. India reported two outbreaks of Nipah virus encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) in the eastern state of West Bengal in 2001 and then again in 2007. Around 71 cases with 50 deaths were reported in these outbreaks. Since 1998 to 2015, more than 600 cases of Nipah virus infection have been reported around the globe. The fact that the fatality rate of this disease is quite high which makes it even more dangerous.

What is Nipah Virus and how it spreads:

Nipah virus is the newly emerging zoonosis (a disease that can spread from animals to humans). It affects both animals as well as humans. This is highly contagious and deadly virus for which there is no vaccine and treatment is available presently. It may spread from animal to humans as well as among humans also. The natural host of the virus are fruit bats (Pteropodidae Pteropus). They are symptom-less carriers. The virus may get transmitted to humans either by direct contact with an infected bat or infected pigs or even other infected humans. The recent outbreak in Kerela is caused by consumption of infected fruits that were bitten by fruit bats. It is also found in the excretory wastes of bats and can spread to animals like pig, dogs, cows etc. It is also suspected to spread through coughing.

Symptoms of Nipah virus infection:

NiV may even silently progress in the human body without any visible symptoms. However, people diagnosed with NiV usually show influenza-like symptoms Common symptoms are listed below:-

  • Acute respiratory infection, which can be mild to severe and cause interference in breathing
  • Fever
  • Muscle pain (myalgia)
  • Headaches
  • A sore throat
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Mental confusion and disorientation
  • Atypical pneumonia
  • Brain swelling or fatal encephalitis

Once a person is infected, it takes 5 to 14 days for symptoms to appear. People who survived the infection may suffer from long-term side effects like convulsions and personality changes.

The complications of Nipah virus include:

  • Seizures
  • Encephalitis
  • Mental confusion and disorientation
  • Atypical pneumonia
  • Brain swelling or fatal encephalitis
  • Progression to a state of coma within 24 to 48 hours.

Treatment:

Currently, there is no known treatment to cure this infection. This is the major reason behind the high fatality rate of NiV. The primary treatment is focused upon managing the symptoms like fever, neurological symptoms etc. The only thing that can help a patient suffering from NiV is intensive supportive care. In that also, the caretaker should follow all the necessary measures so as to prevent getting infected from the virus himself.

Preventive Measures:

Prevention is always better than cure. And keeping the fact in mind that there is no known treatment present to cure NiV infection, it is very important to follow all the preventive measures to keep ourselves safe. Following is the list of preventive measures one should take. It is advised to carefully go through these preventive measures and follow them to as much extent as possible.

  • Since fruits bats are the primary cause of Nipah virus infection, people who have domestic animals or have farm animals should prevent the animals from eating fruits contaminated by bats.
  • Consumption of contaminated date palm sap including toddy should also be avoided.
  • Physical barriers can be erected in order to prevent fruit bats from accessing and contaminating palm sap.
  • People raising pigs can consider putting wire screens to prevent contact between fruit bats and pigs if the pigs are raised in open pig sheds.
  • Caretakers need to be able to swiftly recognize symptoms of infections in animals so that the infected among them can be isolated and an outbreak of infection prevented.
  • Avoiding any form of direct contact with infected pigs, bats and humans are imperative to prevent infection. Health professionals such as nurses and doctors tending to infected patients must take precautionary measures, such as wearing gloves, using a gown, wearing a cap, wearing a mask and washing hands.
  • Hospitals need to take care of necessary sanitation procedures while treating NiV patients to avoid transmission of the virus to other humans in those settings.
  • Domestic animals may also become carriers of NiV as fruit bats often drop partially eaten fruits, which the domestic animals may consume. Try to keep the domestic animals indoors. Feed them yourself. And if you think that there’s a chance they may be infected, take precautionary measures yourself by keeping your distance from them and get them treated.
  • Do not climb trees which you suspect have bat secretions such as saliva or droppings.
  • The primary carriers of NiV in humans are the respiratory secretions. If you are near an infected person, chances are you may get infected if you breathe in their out-breath. The risk is even higher if the patient starts showing respiratory symptoms, such as coughing and sneezing. Due to its highly contagious nature, refrain from sharing food, the bed, and the washroom with an infected patient. Do not stay close to a sneezing or coughing NiV patient and make sure not to come into contact with the saliva of an infected person.
  • The urine of a NiV person has traces of the virus, therefore be cautious while sharing a washroom with an infected person.
  • You can prevent fruit bats from nesting near your house and surroundings by hanging bits of foils around since they reflect light and can deter bats. You can also hang mothballs by placing them in a cloth and hanging it near the entrances of your home from where bats might enter.

Summing up, it is advised to follow all the preventive measures. If you observe symptoms of the infection, you should consult a general physician immediately, who, in turn, may refer you to infectious disease specialist. If all the steps are followed properly during the treatment of the infection, there is a possibility of completely overcoming the infection.

This blog is meant to inform you about the severity of getting infected with the virus, and the easy preventive measures. But don’t limit the knowledge to yourself. Spread it; make others aware too! If bats can spread the infection, why can’t we spread the word of precaution? We are the smartest animals after all!

Stay tuned for more blogs.

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Abhinav Singh
Team Technothlon 2018