Nipah virus: Symptoms, preventive steps and treatment

Outbreaks have since been recorded almost annually in some parts of Asia — primarily in Bangladesh and India

The re-emergence of the Nipah virus in Kerala after a 12-year-old boy died on Sunday has raised alarm bells in a state that is already struggling with a spike in daily Covid-19 infections.

Because the virus can spread from person to person, it has raised concerns in the past about its potential to cause a pandemic.

Here’s a lowdown on all you need to know about the virus.

What is the Nipah virus?

> Nipah virus (NiV) is a zoonotic virus, which means that it can spread between humans and animals.

> The animal host reservoir for NiV is the fruit bat, popularly known as the flying fox, which can spread the virus to other animals like pigs, dogs, goats, etc.

> Humans mostly contract the Nipah virus through close contact with infected animals or by consuming food contaminated by the saliva or urine of infected animals. It can also spread from person to person.

> The Nipah virus was first reported in 1999 after an outbreak of the disease in pigs and people in Malaysia and Singapore.

> Outbreaks have since been recorded almost annually in some parts of Asia — primarily in Bangladesh and India.

Signs and symptoms

> Symptoms typically appear in four to 14 days after exposure to the virus.

> Early and mild symptoms may include fever, headache, cough, sore throat, difficulty in breathing, and vomiting.

> Severe symptoms include seizures, coma, brain swelling (encephalitis), drowsiness and disorientation.

> Long-term side effects in survivors of the Nipah virus include persistent convulsions and personality changes.

> The fatality rate is estimated at 40-75 per cent — although this can vary, depending on local capabilities and management.

What can one do to prevent infection?

> Avoid direct contact with the infected animals.

> Wash hands frequently with soap and water.

> Avoid areas where bats are known to roost.

> Avoid consumption of fruits that may be contaminated by bats.

> Avoid contact with body fluids of any person known to be infected with NiV.


> Although the World Health Organization has identified Nipah as a priority disease, there are currently no drugs, vaccines or licensed treatments available to treat it.

> Doctors recommend rest, hydration and the treatment of mild symptoms as they occur.


>> Nipah virus alert: 2 health workers show symptoms in Kerala after boy’s death

Why is the Nipah virus back in the news?

The last deadly Nipah outbreak in Kerala was in 2018, when 17 people lost their lives to the virus.

The virus has now resurfaced in the Indian state, with a 12-year-old boy succumbing to the infection in the Kozhikode district on Sunday.

The National Centre for Disease Control has sent their team to the state to provide support. Micro-level restrictions have been put in force in areas deemed to be at potential risk.

According to the health department officials, two health officials, who were on the contact list of the boy, have developed symptoms of the virus.

A total of 188 people are in the contact list and 20 of these are from the index list or high-risk category.

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