The recent outbreak of Nipah virus has brought back the threats of fruit bats in India.
Some weeks ago, almost 10 people in Kerala were found dead.
Going through the studies and various tests, it came to light that the mysterious death of the people was because of the spread of Nipah virus.
Until now, people were unaware of the fact that something deadly can occur because of the bites of the fruit bats.
In this article, we will talk about the origin, symptoms, cure and all other facts related to the newly emerging Nipah virus.
What is Nipah Virus?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Nipah virus can be termed as an emerging zoonosis virus that can infect humans as well as animals.
As the studies suggest, a virus needs a host to breed on and is carried forward by the host itself.
Similarly, the host of the Nipah virus is the fruit bats belonging to the Pteropodidae Family coming from the Pteropus genus.
Apparently, the virus is contagious and can be transferred from a human infected with the virus to another human.
Going back to the year 2004, it was observed that humans who had devoured the date palm sap, contaminated with the bite of fruit bats, got transmitted with the infection of Nipah virus.
Origin of the Nipah Virus
The first upsurge of the Nipah virus was witnessed in the year 1999 in Singapore and Malaysia.
In the Kampung Sungai Nipah village of Malaysia, all the pig farmers were struck with this disease.
At that point in time, the primary host of this virus was pigs and then it got transferred to the humans.
As many as 265 people were infected with this deadly virus in 1999 and 40 percent of them were taken in the intensive care unit of the hospitals.
After that, with the correct precautions taken by the Malaysian and the Singaporean government, no cases of Nipah virus were reported.
Then in the year 2001, the humans of Bangladesh got stung with the NiV infection.
This was considered an annual flare-up of the disease in that country and after that several parts of Eastern India reported of the similar conditions.
Although a lot of care has been taken by the people to prevent themselves from this virus, still several regions are at risk.
The reason behind this is that the infection can be found in the natural reservoirs and other species of bats, seen in different parts of the world.
These countries include Cambodia, Philippines, Ghana, Indonesia, and Madagascar. The studies termed this as serologic evidence of the Nipah virus.
How Nipah Virus is Transmitted
The transference of Nipah Infected Virus (NIV) happens when humans come in contact with the infected animals, which was basically seen in Malaysia initially.
However, Nipah is considered a zoonotic virus, which means spreading from animals to humans.
With the help of the research of the scientists, it was found out that the transmission happened from the respiratory droplets, coming in touch with the nasal or throat secretions or coming in association with the tissue of an infected animal.
But considering the reports of Bangladesh and India, it came to light that the outbreak of this disease resulted when contaminated fruit or fruit products were consumed.
It was found out that these food products were intoxicated with the urine or the saliva of the sick animals.
However, the most popular source that made into the headlines of the paper was the infection from fruit bats.
Last but not the least, the transference of infection occurred when humans came in contact with humans while looking after them in days of sickness.
Thus, the close contact of humans led to the transmission of this disease as well.
Signs and Symptoms of Nipah Virus
Looking at the symptoms of the infection it was observed that the disease proved to be fatal for around 40% to 75% of the population.
However, a variation was witnessed in this situation depending on the clinical care of the patients and their management as doctors.
In terms of infections, doctors detected stages of infections which are as followed:
- Asymptomatic infection
- Acute respiratory infection also termed as mild and severe
- Fatal encephalitis
The initial stage of the infection showcases symptoms similar to influenzas such as dizziness, fever, headache, muscle pain, vomiting and sore throat.
If the infection increases, other symptoms follow such as drowsiness, altered consciousness, and other neurological signs.
These symptoms also give rise to acute encephalitis.
In some of the cases, it was spotted that the patients suffered from acute respiratory problems in addition to respiratory diseases.
To top off the infection, seizures occur as well, leading to coma in some 24 to 48 hours.
If we take a look at the incubation period, it can be noted that it lasts from 4 to 14 days and can even go up to 45 days.
In case, people are able to go through acute encephalitis and survive through it, full recovery is a big deal since several neurological disorders are there to stay.
These neurological disorders include seizures and some personality changes.
Rarest of the rare cases lead up to full recovery, but even then some delayed neurological symptoms can be seen.
Diagnosis of Nipah Virus
The diagnosis of this virus in the initial stage is somewhat complicated.
Starting off, the symptoms of the infection and the challenging diagnosis makes it difficult to make out if it is NiV or not.
Thus, there is a hindrance in the accurate diagnosis of the disease and leads to later stages of the infection.
Adding up to all that is the time taken for diagnosis, the quality of clinical management, the time taken to send the sample from the clinic to the laboratory and the time taken to get the disease checked by the doctor gobbles up the chances of the early detection of the Nipah virus.
The major tests that are conducted during the identification are real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-CTPR) from the bodily fluids and the antibody detection tests via ELISA. Other tests in the line are:
- Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA)
- Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay
- Virus isolation by cell culture.
Although, the treatment is pretty hard as there are no particular drugs or vaccines to treat the disease.
The last resort of people infected with this virus is intensive care.
Prevention of Nipah Virus
As such, no drugs have been produced to cure this virus, but the proper routine cleaning of the farms with detergents and disinfecting the land is the need of the hour.
Second, if there are chances of an outrage of the virus, the farms should be immediately vacated.
In situations, wherein the death of infected animals have occurred, there is an immediate need to bury that animal or incinerate the carcasses in an isolated area so that the spread of infection does not take place.
Further, by reducing the movement of infected animals from one farm to another can help in the prevention of the disease.
It has been seen, that the major transmission of the virus happens from the animals, so it is important to have an animal surveillance team and carry out routine checkups by the government.
Plus, there should be doctors and veterinary doctors available at beck and call to investigate the new cases infected with Nipah virus.
Diminishing the Risk of Infection:
Since proper vaccines are not yet present to treat the patients, it is really important for people to be aware of the infection and take appropriate precautions such as washing the fruits and then consuming them, cleaning of the farms properly, etc.
Let us have a look at the major points of focus in order to increase the awareness of the people regarding this infection:
- Transmission of infection from bat to human: The date palm sap is the main cause of worry here. It is recommended to cover the area date palm trees enclosed to keep away the fruit bats. Then, it is important to boil the fresh juice of these fruits before drinking them and proper wash along with peeling the skin should be the go-to option.
- Transference of infection from animals to humans: It should be on the checklist of people working at the farms to wear gloves during the culling and slaughtering of the sick animals. Then people should try not to be in touch with the infected pigs.
- Transmission from human to human: It is way too important to wash your hands regularly and take other precautions, in case you are taking care of the person infected with the virus.
In a nutshell, it is really important to take proper care and prevent yourself from getting infected with the virus.
The government should come up with proper guidelines for the awareness regarding the disease and instructions for all those people taking care of those infected with the virus in the clinics.
This is your chance to save yourself from the deadly war of fruit bats and pigs. Prevention is better than cure.