At least 40 people have been infected and 13 have died in southern India in an outbreak of Nipah, a rare and deadly virus . The first suspected case of Nipah was found in the state of Kerala, in a young man who traveled by train to Goa .It has killed more than 260 people in Malaysia, Bangladesh and India since 1998. In India, the disease was first reported in 2001 and again six years later, with the two outbreaks (2001 & 2007,West Bengal) claiming 50 lives. That’s not a large outbreak, but it’s enough that epidemiologists have raised concerns about a possible global health emergency. Poor, hot, crowded, and unstable. As these dimensions of our society increase, so does the risk and severity of epidemic.
Kerala has been on high alert due to mysterious death of people as a result of viral attack. Nipah is on the WHO’s list of priority emerging diseases with epidemic potential, a list that also includes Ebola and Zika. Acc. to WHO, NiV has mortality rates of up to 75%, though the recent strain to appear in India seems less deadly than that. Lini Sajeesh , a nurse from Kerala died, caring for Nipah infected people and her body was cremated by the hospital & didn’t let anyone see her body to prevent the spread of Virus. From her hospital bed ,she wrote her husband, “I think I am almost on my way. I may not be able to see you again. Sorry. Take care of our children. Lots of love.” However,people working in close proximity with animals are particularly susceptible
Nipah virus (NiV) is a zoonotic virus that causes severe disease in both animals and humans. The natural host of the virus are fruit bats of the Pteropodidae Family, Pteropus genus, through the vectors of bites and scratches, or via contaminated food and water (A zoonotic virus is a virus that can be transmitted from animals to humans, such as rabies or zika). It is named after the Malaysian village( Kampung Sungai Nipah) , where it first appeared in 1998 and subsequent outbreaks have been more or less contained to South and Southeast Asia, most notably Bangladesh, where humans became infected as a result of consuming date palm sap contaminated by infected fruit bats.. Earlier , pigs were the intermediate hosts. However, in subsequent outbreaks, there were no intermediate hosts. Human-to-human transmission has also been documented in India & Bangladesh. So, the virus can be transferred through infected bats, pigs or humans who have been infected. 60 per cent of this infection in humans comes from animals.
Signs and symptoms
Nipah Virus is an airborne transmission infection and affect those who come in direct contact with contaminated bodies. It is usually associated with :
- inflammation of the brain , called
- severe days of fever ,headache, nausea ,dizziness, vomiting
- a state of confusion, convulsions, disorientation and even persistent drowsiness(above symptoms can last up to 7-10 days)
- the lungs are often affected (75% of the cases). Patient may suffer increasing breathlessness and may progress to severe oxygen hunger rapidly.
- If not taken care of, symptoms cause a coma in a span of 24-48 hours.
- Few patients showed neurological, respiratory and pulmonary signs as well.
So, these symptoms should not be ignored. The symptoms may take from 4 to 14 days to appear after a person gets infected. The early symptoms are not very clear and can easily be confused with that of viral fever and common cold. The virus can kill between 40 per cent to 100 per cent of those infected by it. This virus has earned its scary reputation.
Prevention & Cure
As of now, there is no particular vaccine available purely for the treatment of Nipah Virus, though researchers are working on the same. The only way to treat this virus is through intensive supportive care. Supportive care means that the patients may need to be closely monitored and may be admitted to hospital. Patients may need respiratory support and may need to be put on the ventilator.
- Since drinking raw date palm sap bitten by a bat can cause NiV, so avoid consuming date palm for some time.
- Hospitals also need to raise awareness about symptoms and transmission.
- Detection is another issue with NiV and anyone who feels the symptoms( like uneasiness ,when in and around an infected region ) get yourself tested thoroughly and immediately from a recognized facility.
- Avoiding direct contact with infected pigs, bats and humans in endemic regions should be practiced.
- Health professionals attending such patients should take precautionary measures, such as wearing PPE (personal protective Equipment) : masks and gloves.
Telling people not to panic often tends to ensure that they do. It is, therefore, imperative that facts and advice must be available from trusted sources in clear and simple speak. A robust single portal source of information set up specifically for the particular outbreak should become the norm.
Kerala has declared that the outbreak has been contained. We owe this relief to the hundreds of medical professionals who risk their own lives when it comes to saving others. A poignant note written by Nurse Lini who succumbed whilst looking after patients has touched the hearts of thousands. She is a shining example of unassuming dedication and courage that the entire medical profession should be proud of !!!