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Nipah – The mystery virus

The state of Kerala in India has been put on high alert by The National Centre for Disease Control following the outbreak of a mysterious virus called ‘Nipah’. Over 10 people have died so far and a lot more have been reported to be showing symptoms of the virus.

Nipah, also known as the NiV virus was first detected in Singapore and Malaysia during 1998-99 wherein 265 people were infected and close to half of them had to be kept under intensive care. According to the World Health Organisation, fruit bats of the Pteropodidae Family are the natural hosts of the Nipah virus. The virus however is known to affect and spread via pigs and humans as well.

Here is all that you need to know about the virus:

What is the Nipah virus infection?

It is a Viral infection that causes fever, neurological and respiratory complications in both animals and humans.

How does it spread?

  • The Nipah Virus is transmitted through the air and can affect those who come in direct contact with contaminated bodies.
  • The virus can be transferred through infected bats and pigs and cases of human to human transmission have also been reported.
  • In 2004, in Bangladesh, there were reports of the virus spreading as a result of consuming date palm sap that had been contaminated by infected fruit bats.

What are the Signs and symptoms?

  • Flu-like symptoms. For example: headache, fever, nausea. These symptoms can last up to 7-10 days.
  • Usually associated with swelling of the brain can often lead to a state of confusion, disorientation and even persistent drowsiness.
  • Breathlessness and respiratory illness can also be present during the early part of the illness
  • If not taken care of, these symptoms can even cause a coma in a span of 24-48 hours.

How can it be prevented?

  • Family members caring for patients should put in place standard precautions including washing hands, wearing protection gown, mask, cap and gloves is also recommended.
  • Avoiding direct/in-direct contact with infected bats, pigs and humans is essential
  • Since there have been documented cases of the virus spreading through contaminated raw date palm sap, it is advisable to stay away from all forms of date palm sap.

With enough information, knowledge and awareness, the damage caused by the virus can be limited and can further be eliminated completely. As they say, prevention is always better than cure, hence if you or anyone you know exhibits any of the symptoms of contracting the virus, get a check-up done immediately.

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