Nipah virus is a communicable disease which is mainly spread by fruit bats. It is a deadly virus for both animals and humans. Humans can also be infected with Nipah virus through contaminated food. Generally, people who are infected with the virus can go through a variety of illnesses ranging from respiratory problems to fatal encephalitis, which is an inflammation of the brain.
Symptoms of Nipah
Diagnosis could be delayed due to the non-standard incubation period between infection and the appearance of the symptoms of Nipah. Some of these symptoms include:
- Fever and headache
The first signs of being unwell are often ignored. Any headache or fever should be immediately addressed given the current scenario.
- Muscle and joint pain
Another common symptom is muscle and joint pain. You should consult a doctor immediately if you feel pain in your arm and leg joints.
- Vomiting and sore throat
Another symptom of Nipah is vomiting and a sore throat. If an individual is suffering from a bad throat and is constantly vomiting, it is advisable to consult the local doctor immediately.
The virus is often mistaken for a lesser infection and it is very important therefore to ramp up diagnostic and clinical management care when a possible outbreak is detected. Fatality rates vary from 40-75% depending on the quality of medical and supportive care. All the above symptoms lead to progressive dizziness, drowsiness and other signs of infection of the brain in severe cases, the patient may suffer seizures and inflammation of the brain (encephalitis). In extreme cases, the infected person may experience mild to severe respiratory problems and pneumonia. This could be followed by the individual going into coma within a day or two if not provided with immediate medical care.
Prevention of Nipah
There are many steps one can take to prevent being infected by the Nipah virus.
- Hygiene and Cleanliness
There is no vaccine available at present to protect people or animals from the Nipah virus. The best way to prevent infection is to raise standards of hygiene and cleanliness. This also helps ensure that you don’t contract any common summer diseases.
- Disinfection and quarantine of pigs
The virus is easily transmitted from infected pigs and other domestic animals, and therefore thorough cleaning and disinfection of pigs and other animal farms should be done routinely. Even the smallest suspicion of an outbreak should be acted upon immediately. Quarantining of animal premises, culling infected animals and proper disposal of animal carcasses should be carried out meticulously to prevent the spread of the disease.
- Monitoring animal health
As Nipah outbreaks have primarily involved pigs and fruit bats, it is of utmost importance to establish and monitor an efficient animal health and wildlife surveillance system for early detection of an epidemic.
- Use gloves and masks
Healthcare workers must ensure they use protective gloves, gowns and masks while ministering to patients due to the high risk of infection they face on a daily basis.
- Discarding of infected fruits
Ensure that fruits and fruit products exposed to infected fruit bats are discarded and disposed of properly.
Treatment of Nipah
At this present stage there are no particular drugs or vaccines to cure an individual of the Nipah virus, although there are certain cases where doctors have been using Ribavirin to treat patients. The World Health Organization is stepping up its efforts to combat the Nipah virus. The World Health Organization (WHO) has recognized the virus as a priority disease for its Research and Development blueprint. If an individual is suffering from neurological and extreme respiratory problems, it is advisable to get admitted to the nearest hospital.
NIPAH outbreak in Kerala:
2018 was the first time there was an outbreak of Nipah virus in the southern state of Kerala. The prime cause of the virus was traced back to fruit bats in the area. The outbreak of the virus took place in the districts of Malappuram and Kozhikode and claimed approximately 17 lives. The outbreak of the virus was curtailed and later declared over in June 2018.
A year later, a new case of the Nipah virus surfaced in the city of Kochi, Kerala where a 23 year old was infected with the virus in the first week of June 2019. This is reportedly the fourth outbreak in India, with previous outbreaks happening in 2001 and 2007 respectively.
The Nipah virus is common during the monsoon, so use the tips listed above to take extra precautions to stay safe and healthy during this season.