CAUTION AGAINST NIPAH VIRUS IN KERALA
There is no vaccine for the Nipah virus and treatment is limited to supportive care.
Nipah is a zoonotic virus transmitted from animals to humans, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). However, it can also be transmitted through contaminated food or directly between people. The natural host is a particular family of bats, Pteropodidae, which can spread the severe disease to farm animals, including pigs.
Infection with the virus can cause mild to severe disease, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Symptoms often begin with a headache and drowsiness but can quickly transform into a coma within a matter of days, the CDC says.
It can also cause acute respiratory syndrome – where the lungs cannot get enough oxygen to the body – and fatal encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain.
There is no vaccine, and treatment is limited to supportive care.
According to the CDC, transmission of Nipah virus to humans may occur after direct contact with infected bats, infected pigs, or from other NiV- infected people.
Kerala is taking measures to contain an outbreak of the Nipah virus after two people died from the rare and often deadly disease, shutting schools and testing hundreds to prevent its spread. A 39-year-old man has tested positive for Nipah, a total of 6 cases in Kerala.
So far in Kerala, more than 706 people have been identified as close contacts and are being tested for the virus, the state’s health minister Veena George told reporters on Wednesday. Mortality among the infected people is very high in Nipah - between 40 and 70 percent as compared to that of Covid which was 2 to 3%.
Of those, 77 are considered “high risk,” she said, adding the group has been asked to remain at home and monitor their health.
People have been asked to avoid liquor collected in open vessels from palm trees. Samples of other fruits and nuts in the area are being tested for the virus.
Wearing of masks has been made mandatory. The district collector has also declared Saturday as a holiday for educational institutions.
Authorities in Kozhikode district in Kerala have shut some schools, its district collector said in a statement Wednesday. Meanwhile, seven villages have been declared “containment zones,” Reuters reported
· Muscle pain
· Sore throat
These symptoms can be followed by more serious conditions including:
· Altered consciousness
· Acute encephalitis
· Atypical pneumonia
· Severe respiratory distress
As per the US Centre for Disease Control, people in areas with Nipah outbreak should:
· Practice handwashing regularly with soap and water
· Avoid contact with sick bats or pigs
· Avoid areas where bats are known to roost
· Avoid eating or drinking products that could be contaminated by bats, such as raw date palm sap, raw fruit, or fruit that is found on the ground
· Avoid contact with the blood or body fluids of any person known to be infected with NiV
Nipah virus was first identified during a 1998-1999 outbreak in Malaysia, where nearly 300 people were infected and more than 100 died, according to the CDC. More than a million pigs were euthanized to halt its spread.
The virus was named after the village of Kampung Sungai Nipah in Malaysia, where pig farmers contracted the disease.
During that outbreak, most human infections resulted from direct contact with sick pigs or their contaminated tissues, according to the WHO. There have been subsequent outbreaks in India and Bangladesh, with more than 600 reported human cases between 1998 and 2015, it added.
Human-to-human transmission of the Nipah virus has also been reported. According to the WHO, between 2001 and 2008, around half of reported cases in Bangladesh were due to human-to-human transmission resulting from workers providing care to infected patients.
The virus is on the WHO’s list of epidemic threats in need of urgent research and development.
It is a zoonotic virus, meaning it is transmitted from animals to humans and has a death rate of 40% to 75% for the infected. A Nipah infection can show zero symptoms, or it can cause fatal encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), with a range of possible widespread complications.
The first case in the 2018 outbreak was suspected to have been caused by fruit bats, which were discovered in an unused well at the home of the victim, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Kerala experienced a deadly threat of the Nipah virus in 2018, killing 17 people and causing widespread panic in the state. More than 230 people were tested during that time as authorities embarked on a rigid contact-tracing operation to contain its spread.
The state had another outbreak in 2021, claiming the life of a 12-year-old boy.
The most recent outbreak of the Nipah virus occurred during January and February of 2023 in Bangladesh with a total of 11 cases (ten confirmed, one probable) resulting in 8 deaths, a case fatality rate of 73%. This outbreak resulted in the highest number of cases reported since 2015 in Bangladesh, and ten of the 11 cases during the 2023 outbreak had a confirmed history of consuming date palm sap.