According to WHO, the Nipah Virus infection is a newly emerging zoonosis, that is, a disease transmitted from animals to humans. Nipah Virus first broke out in Malaysia and Singapore in 1998 and 1999. It first appeared in domestic pigs and has been found among several species of domestic animals.

The organism which causes Nipah Virus encephalitis is an RNA or Ribonucleic acid virus of the family Paramyxoviridae, genus Henipavirus, and is closely related to Hendra virus, according to Indian Express.

The Hindu reported that Last evening, the health department of Kerala confirmed the first Nipah virus infection in the State after testing the blood samples of two persons who died of viral fever in Kozhikode district. Private and government hospitals are on high alert to monitor the disease and its spread.

Recently, Indian Express reported that deaths of three people in Perambra in Kozhikode district of Kerala have been confirmed as a result of Nipah virus, a source close to health minister KK Shylaja confirmed on Sunday. While the health minister will travel to Perembra, a central team will be arriving in the state to monitor the situation.

It also reported The mortality rate is reportedly 70 per cent.

What are the symptoms in humans?

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.

How does Nipah spread or get transmitted?

The disease spreads through fruit bats or ‘flying foxes,’ of the genus Pteropus, who are natural reservoir hosts of the Nipah and Hendra viruses. The virus is present in bat urine and potentially, bat faeces, saliva, and birthing fluids. Presumably, the first incidence of Nipah virus infection occurred when pigs in Malaysian farms came in contact with the bats who had lost their habitats due to deforestation. Furthermore, transmission between farms may be due to fomites – or carrying the virus on clothing, equipment, boots, vehicles.

Are there any vaccines?

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 hospitalised 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.

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