Kerala health department is on high alert in the wake of deaths due to the ‘Nipah’ virus (NiV). The government has set up a task force to monitor the cases and contain the spread of this fast-spreading virus which has a reported mortality rate of 70 percent. Here’s how NiV spreads, the symptoms and treatment.
According to WHO, the Nipah virus infection is a newly emerging zoonosis, that is, a disease transmitted from animals to humans. The virus belongs to a new genus termed Henipavirus (subfamily Paramyxovirinae).
The natural host of the virus is fruit bats belonging to the family Pteropodidae. In 2004, humans were affected after eating the date palm contaminated by infected fruit bats. Pigs can also act as intermediate hosts.
It was first identified in 1998 at Kampung Sungai Nipah village, Malaysia. The virus is named after this village.
The symptoms of Nipah are similar to that of influenza: fever, muscle pain, and respiratory problems. Inflammation of the brain can also cause disorientation. Late onset of Encephalitis can also occur. Sometimes a person can have an asymptomatic infection, and be a carrier of Nipah and not show any symptoms.
Currently, there are no vaccines for both humans and animals. Intensive supportive care is given to humans infected by Nipah virus.
According to WHO, ribavarin can reduce the symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and convulsions associated with the disease. Individuals infected need to be hospitalized and isolated. Special care should be taken to prevent human-to-human transmission. Surveillance systems should be established to detect the virus quickly and to initiate appropriate control measures.