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Rediff.com  » News » Kerala Nipah virus outbreak: Should you worry?

Kerala Nipah virus outbreak: Should you worry?

Last updated on: May 22, 2018 16:36 IST

The deadly Nipah virus outbreak has claimed 10 lives in Kerala so far.

The virus is so fatal that it even claimed the life of a nurse who was treating the first victim of the virus.

 

The virus, which has no reported vaccine to treat it as of now, is limited to Kozhikode and Malappuram districts in north Kerala. 

Here is all you need to know about the virus, its symptoms and how you can prevent it.

IMAGE: Family members of the patients admitted at the Kozhikode Medical College wear safety masks as a precautionary measure after the Nipah virus outbreak. Photograph: PTI Photo

What is the Nipah virus infection?

According to World Health Organisation, Nipah virus (NiV) infection is a newly emerging zoonosis, which is a disease that is trasmitted from animals to humans, in both animals and humans.

The natural host of the virus are fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family, Pteropus genus.

How and where was the virus first detected?

The infection reportedly spread from a family in Perambara in rural Kozhikode who were the first to be brought to hospital with symptoms of Nipah.

Two brothers, both in their twenties, died over the past fortnight, and a woman who was with them in hospital also died.

The father of the young men is in a critical condition.

According to reports, health officials said they found mangoes bitten by bats in their home which are believed to have caused the infection.

When and where did Nipah originate?

According to the WHO website, NiV was first identified during an outbreak of disease in Kampung Sungai Nipah, Malaysia, in 1998, when pigs were the intermediate hosts. The virus thus drew its name from a Malaysian village.

However, in subsequent NiV outbreaks, there were no intermediate hosts.

In 2001, the first outbreak occurred in India in the state of West Bengal and which was attributed solely to fruit bats.

In 2004, many in Bangladesh fell ill after consuming palm sap which had been contaminated by fruit bats. WHO also stated that human to human transmission is seeing a steady rise.

What are the symptoms of NIV?

The incubation period for the virus ranges from 5 to 14 days, when the symptoms become visible.

The symptoms include fever, headache, fainting and nausea.

In some cases, symptoms like choking, stomach pain, vomiting, fatigue and blurred vision could also be there.

The patient can even go into a coma a couple of days after the symptoms begin.

The chance of contracting encephalitis that affects the brain is also high.

Should you be worried?

Yes, a little.

Because the virus has no cure or treatment, and comes with a high fatality rate, things can get worrisome if the outbreak spreads.

The main treatment for those infected is "intensive supportive care", according to the UN health body.

Who is at risk from the Nipah virus infection?

People working with pigs and those who consume pigs are at high risk.

As also farmers who come in contact with bats and consuming contaminated fruits bitten by bats.

Direct contact with those who already have the Nipah virus infection, can also be risky.

How to prevent the Nipah virus infection?

1. Avoid contact with pigs and pig handlers.

2. Maintain high standards of personal hygiene.

3. Avoid consuming raw fruits, consume only well cooked, clean, home-made food till the outbreak settles down.

4. Preferably use masks while travelling or working in public places to avoid person to person transmission.

5. Be aware of the symptoms and if you spot any, report to a doctor immediately for early diagnosis and treatment.

What are the state and central governments doing about the outbreak?

The state of Kerala has been put on high alert and two control rooms have been opened in Kozhikode.

The Centre has rushed a high-level team from the National Centre for Disease Control to Kerala.

The state's health minister Shylaja has said that there was no need to panic as the virus spreads only through direct contact with an infected person.

The minister also said that peripheral hospitals in the vicinity of the medical college in Kozhikode have been asked to set up isolation wards and if they get patients with symptoms of the virus, they should be directed to the medical college.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has said that the government was handling the issue with 'utmost seriousness'.

Instructions have been issued to private hospitals not to deny treatment to those with fever, he said.