A Comprehensive Introduction To Nipah
Nipah virus is a zootonic virus, i.e., it infects both animals and humans. The virus primarily causes asymptomatic infection to acute respiratory infection and fatal encephalitis. Fruit bats and pigs are the common hosts of the virus.
The encephalitis symptom the infected show is due to the presence of an RNA from the family Paramyxoviridae, genus Henipavirus. This genus is closely related to the Hendra virus (HeV), which was isolated in Australia in 1994.
The first Nipah outbreak was reported in Malaysia and Singapore in 1998-1999. The disease has a case fatality rate of 40% to 75%, depending on the extent of the outbreak. It can spread from animals, like pigs and bats, to humans and between humans.
Since there is no treatment for Nipah, it is considered deadly.
Previous Outbreaks In Kerala
Kerala is the southernmost state in India, with a population of over 30 million.
Nipah was first reported in the Kozhikode district of Kerala on 19 May 2018. By 1 June 2018, the state had witnessed 17 deaths out of the 18 infected people. The situation was brought under control with the expertise of the health care professions and state and central governments.
Another Nipah outbreak was reported the next year in the Ernakulam district of the same state. The disease was detected in a 21-year old male who survived the infection.
Apart from Kerala, India had seen two other Nipah outbreaks before, in 2001 and 2007, in West Bengal, another state in the country. Fortunately, the state and central government could manage the outbreak successfully.
Present Nipah Outbreak In Kerala
A case of Nipah was reported in Kerala on 5th September 2021, after a 12-year old boy died due to it. The infected boy showed inflammation in the brain and heart muscles - which are symptoms of encephalitis and myocarditis.
Following the boy's death, two healthcare workers have shown the same symptoms and are held under strict quarantine.
The state and central government are trying their best to control the situation. The Health Minister of Kerala, Veena George, has said that the boy was in contact with 188 people. Of them, 20 are considered to have been in close contact with the boy, increasing their chances of infection. Since the symptoms show only after 4-14 following the exposure to the virus, all the contacts are quarantining.
Also, the concerned authorities have sealed areas within a two-mile radius of the boy's house. They are also screening the area for people who are showing the symptoms.
Precautions To Take To Prevent Nipah Infection
People from the infected state can follow these to reduce the chances of being infected:
- Wash hands regularly with soap and water.
- Avoid contact with sick animals, especially bats and pigs.
- Restrain from consuming fruits that bats feed on, like raw date palm sap.
- Prevent from coming in contact with the body fluids of people who have tested positive for Nipah.
It is highly advised that places with pigs and fruits bats follow these precautions to prevent the spread of the disease any further.
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