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Nipah virus (Image courtesy: livescience.com)
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A high-level meeting of the Health Department has chalked out an action plan for containing the spread of the Nipah virus in Kerala's Kozhikode district which has claimed several lives in the state. Officials at the meet formulated a general guideline for fever treatment and prevention. It also decided to open a state-level information cell to disseminate information about the virus in a bid to alleviate the concerns of the public. Here is all you need to know about the viral outbreak.
WHAT IS NIPAH?
Nipah virus (NiV) infection is a newly emerging zoonotic disease (one which spreads from animals to humans) which spreads by the ingestion of human secretions/fluids. Fruit bats, a common species of the flying mammal abundantly found in India is the host animal for the disease-causing virus.
WHAT CAUSES NIPAH?
The flying fox bat, which is also called a fruit bat (Pteropus giganteus) is the host animal for the NiV. However, these small mammals live in common roosts and only travel up to a few kilometres for food. So if the outbreak happened in one area, the chances of it becoming widespread are less.
HOW DOES IT TRANSMIT:
NiV gets transmitted from fruit bats to other organisms mainly through body fluids. The consumption of fruits, berries or flowers bitten by the virus-carrying bats can cause the transmission. It generally reaches human beings through domestic animals which could have either eaten things already sucked by the bats, or got bitten by them. Human to human transmission happens via physical contact.
IS THERE A CURE?
According to World Health Organisation (WHO), Nipah can cause asymptomatic infection to the acute respiratory syndrome and fatal encephalitis in human beings. The infection posses a dreadful mortality rate of 70 per cent. NiV can cause "Encephalitis"- an acute inflammation of the brain that can cause death in human beings. Unfortunately, no vaccination has been discovered yet to prevent the virus, and patients are generally given intensive care treatment. However, people with good immunity have lesser chances of getting infected.
WHERE HAS IT BEEN REPORTED EARLIER?
NiV was first identified during an outbreak of disease that took place in Kampung Sungai Nipah, Malaysia in 1998, with pigs as the intermediate hosts. Around 100 among the 300 infected succumbed to the disease.
The only other reported case of Nipah in India was from Siliguri in West Bengal way back in January 2001. The outbreak resulted in the death of 45 among the 66 infected.
- Some patients may slip into a coma within two days after the initial symptoms
- Avoid the consumption of fruits bitten by bats and other animals. It is advisable not to harvest fruits which might seem fallen naturally from a tree in your premise although it looks untouched by any animals.
- Avoid consumption of toddy collected from areas where fruit bats are found in plenty as the beverage is brewed in open containers.
- Wear masks and gloves while attending patients and wash hands using anti-bacterial soaps or liquids if you happen to make any physical contact with an infected person.
- Keep the wells and other water sources closed and clean. Treated water should be used for body sanitization and cleaning. Consume boiled water.
- Moving patients to other locations could result in the spreading of the virus since it is a transmittable disease. Minimum mobility is hence often advised.
- Monitor if anybody in your family shows symptoms of flu. Avoid self-treatment and do check with medical professionals. Do not panic as sudden influx of fear could only worsen the situation.