What is Nipah virus, symptoms, cause and treatment

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Graphic Illustration of Nipah Virus
Graphic Illustration of Nipah Virus

New Delhi : Nipah virus is the recently introduced name of a viral infection which emerged as a life-threatening disease in Kerala, a few months back. The kind of infection was first reported after an outbreak in Malaysia in 1998. Health experts say that the Nipah virus (NiV) is a zoonotic virus that can be transmitted from animals to humans. Studies have concluded that fruit bats and pigs host the virus which can lead to serious illness in both animals and humans.

As the name of the infection suggests, the first Nipah virus symptoms was reported in Kampung Sungai Nipah, Malaysia, following its outbreaks in Bangladesh, India, and Singapore. In May 2018, a Nipah virus rapidly spread amongst the population in India and took the lives of 17 people, with 18 confirmed cases. Nipah virus directly attacks the brain leading to the stage of coma within just 24 hours of its attack. Death can occur in up to 80% of cases, making it a very deadly virus. 

In 2018, the outbreak has been linked to the consumption of mangoes which had been bitten by infected pigs. It was also reported that some individuals were infected due to ingesting raw date palm that had been contaminated with bat saliva containing NiV.

Nipah viral infection symptoms

The signs and symptoms of NiV infection begin with:

  • fever and headache
  • myalgia (muscle aches)
  • sore throat
  • vomiting
  • dizziness and/or
  • acute respiratory syndrome or atypical pneumonia

Infected person may show sign of drowsiness, disorientation, mental confusion, altered consciousness, and seizures that may progress eventually and within 24-48 hours the patient may go to coma and finally die.

Treatment for Nipah Virus infection

Till now, no proper treatment has been discovered. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), proper care is the only current treatment for this viral infection. There is no special vaccine available to save humans from this deadly viral infection. However, some researchers suggest that the antiviral drug ribavirin may be useful, but there is very little evidence in its support. A human monoclonal antibody that targets the G glycoprotein of NiV has shown benefit in a ferret animal model of this disease, but researchers have found the effects of the antibody in human body.

How to prevent Nipah virus from spreading

Experts mentioned that the outbreak of Nipah infection in India have taken place from person-to-person transmission. These transmissions were seen to occur due to direct contact with bodily fluids of patients with the virus. Therefore, following preventive measures should be considered:

  • Avoid close (unprotected) physical contact with infected people 
  • Wear NH95-grade and higher masks 
  • Wash hands regularly with soap 
  • Avoid consuming partly eaten fruits or unpasteurised fruit juices 
  • Avoid being around anima pens 
  • Boil freshly collected date palm juice before consuming 
  • Thoroughly wash and peel fruits before consuming 
  • Maintain your and children's personal hygiene 
  • Cover your household properly