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Added to the family of viruses is Nipah virus

by Madhvi Bansal
Nipah virus

Recently, severe death has been recorded caused from the infection of Nipah Virus (NiV) in Kerala. Nipah Virus can cause severe complications in humans from acute respiratory syndrome to fatal encephalitis and can also affect certain animals, like pigs. According to WHO, the virus has taken away 300 lives across Malaysia, Singapore, Bangladesh and India between 1998 and 2008. Here is all you need to know about the Nipah virus:

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What is Nipah virus?

Nipah virus (NiV) infection is a newly emerging zoonosis which means a disease that can be transmitted to humans from animals. According to World Health Organisation (WHO), the natural host of the virus is fruit bats of the Pteropodidae Family, Pteropus genus (fruit-eating species).

How does it spread?

Nipah virus transmission takes place through direct contact with infected bats, pigs, or from other NiV-infected people.  The virus also spread because humans often contracted the disease by drinking raw date palm sap tapped directly from trees, a sweet treat that fruit bats also enjoy.

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Symptoms of Nipah Virus Infection

  • As per the studies of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, infection with Nipah virus is associated with encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). Symptoms include fever, headache, dizziness and vomiting, followed by drowsiness, disorientation and mental confusion. 
  • Approx. 50 per cent of the patients faced a reduced level of consciousness and prominent brain-stem dysfunction. 
  • Few patients have a respiratory illness during the early part of their infections, and half of the patients showing severe neurological signs showed also pulmonary signs.

Nipah virus was first identified in 1998, Kampung Sungai Nipah, Malaysia. The pigs were the intermediate hosts during that outbreak. Around 1.1 million pigs had to be killed to control the outbreak.  

While in India, Nipah Virus affected the humans without any involvement of pigs. Its first outbreak was noticed in 2001 in Siliguri, West Bengal. The second incident is in Nadia district in West Bengal in 2007. 

Treatment Available

According to WHO, there is no vaccine currently available for either humans or animals and NiV-infected patients are currently limited to supportive care. People have also been cautioned that they should not consume fruits that have fallen on to the ground.

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