The statement by Health Minister of Kerala, K K Shylaja on Monday that a 23-year-old youth admitted to a private hospital from Ernakulam is suspected to have contracted Nipah virus has caused a wide spread of panic across the nation.
An outbreak of Nipah virus in May 2018 claimed 17 lives in Kerala, forcing the government to cut all transport services to its neigbouring states to contain the fast spreading virus.
History of Nipah Virus:
First noticed in 1998, the virus was named after a village Sungal Nipah where it was identified in Malaysia. It is a communicable disease that gets transmitted to humans from animals especially from pigs, bats and those humans carrying the virus.
Nipah Virus In Kerala
In the latest case, the student hailing from Ernakulam, studying in Idukki reportedly went to a factory in Thrissur for internship. Few days later he complained of fever and has been suffering for the last ten days. He was admitted to private hospital after his fever failed to subside prompting medical authorities to run a Nipah virus test on him.
His samples were sent to the National Institute of Virology in Alleppey and Pune. Even though the authorities are still awaiting results, the preventive measures have been pressed in to avoid the outbreak of epidemic.
Signs And Symptoms Of Nipah:
The symptoms of Nipah virus mimic regular fever. Patients affected with Nipah suffer from severe headache, muscle pain, dizziness, stomach ache, choking, vomiting, blurred vision and respiratory problems. It often leads to encephalitis- inflammation of the brain and is fatal.
Outbreak Of Nipah Virus And Transmission
The first signs of the virus can be identified from 5 to 14 days of exposure and it rapidly progresses pushing the patient into a comatose condition in next 48 hours.
The virus which spread rapidly in Kozhikode district of Kerala in 2018 was effectively contained from spreading to other parts of the country. In a statement that was issued in last May, Dr Atul Gogia, senior consultant, Department of Medicine, Sir Ganga Ram said that Nipah virus like any other viral infection, but it mainly affects central nervous system and respiratory health and it should be managed with the help of intensive support care.”
How Is Nipah Diagnosed?
A Nipah virus is diagnosed by running reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction from throat swab, cerebrospinal fluid, urine, blood work at various stages of the fever. If a patient fails to survive the virus an immunohistochemistry of tissues collected during autopsy will be used to confirm Nipah.
A recovered patient may have to undergo IgG and IgM antibody detection.
The prevention of contracting this virus is by avoiding exposure to fruit bats and pigs. Those who drink palm toddy contaminated by the excreta of bats are at higher risk.
Do not ever eat fruits consumed partially by birds, bats and avoid using water from open wells.
Doctors, nurses and other medical personnel treating Nipah virus patients are strongly recommended standard infection prevention practices to avoid hospital acquired diseases.
Is There A Vaccine?
No. There is no vaccine available against Nipah virus and the treatment is limited to supportive care. Certain studies prove that the drug Ribavirin that is usually used to treat Hepatitis C and viral hemorrhages has shown to be effective against the virus in few cases.
However, the side effects may include upset stomach, weight loss, loss of appetite, change in tastes.
Should We Panic?
There is no need to panic as the government has stepped in to control the outbreak of Nipah virus. Stay away from bats, birds, pigs.
People with lower immunity, children, pregnant women need to exercise extra caution while travelling in those areas where virus has been reported.