What Is Nipah Virus? All You Need To Know

The recent outbreak of the rare and deadly Nipah virus has created a public scare. Here is all you need to know about the disease.

By Team ParentCircle

What Is Nipah Virus? All You Need To Know

Manu has planned to visit Kerala in the last leg of the summer vacation with her family. But, even as she is packing, she is unnerved by the news surrounding Nipah virus. Deaths, fear and an uneasy calm everywhere. Nipah virus has struck and is hitting the state badly.  

As the news about the Nipah virus and the deaths spreads, many are curious to know about the virus, how it spreads and what to do to prevent it. Our research team, in association with top experts, gives you all the information you need. Read on...

What is Nipah virus?

  • The Nipah virus gets its name from a village in Malaysia where the virus was first detected. 
  • The virus caused an outbreak of brain fever among pig farmers in Malaysia in the 1990s.
  • According to World Health Organization (WHO), Nipah virus (NiV) is an emerging infectious disease. 
  • The disease can transmit to humans from animals. 
  • The fruit bats are the natural carrier of the disease. Pigs too can get infected.  
  • The virus claimed many lives in Malaysia and Bangladesh in the late 90s. 
  • In the past outbreaks, fatality rate of the virus was between 40 to 75 per cent of the infected people.
  • There is no medicine for the virus, however, symptoms like nausea, vomiting and convulsions can be treated with the antiviral medicine Ribavirin

ParentCircle talks to Dr Vikrant Shah, consulting physician, intensivist and infectious diseases specialist, Zen Multi Speciality Hospital, Mumbai to know details about the disease and ways to prevent its spread.

He says, “Isolation is the key to contain the spread of the virus. Once a person shows the symptoms, keep him in isolation and seek immediate medical help. There is no approved therapy for this infection. Prevention is the only cure!”

Symptoms of Nipah virus:

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the main symptoms of the disease are:

  • Sudden onset of high fever
  • Headaches 
  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Disorientation and mental confusion
  • Neck rigidity and extreme sensitivity to light are also seen in some cases
  • Initial symptoms could be similar to flu and respiratory illness and in the later stage, it leads to encephalitis, brain damage 
  • Once you are infected with the virus, the symptoms of the disease can show after five days to two weeks
  • In some acute cases, the infected person falls into a coma within 48 hours of developing symptoms
  • The disease progresses rapidly
What Is Nipah Virus? All You Need To Know
Fruit Bat is the natural host of the Nipah virus

How is it diagnosed?

Dr Shah informs that the diagnosis of the disease is done by a test named ELISA which is currently available at the National Institute of Virology, Pune.

How it spreads?

The Nipah virus can spread from the infected animal to a person. The infected person can spread the disease to other people through contact. For example, if a person eats a fruit which is already bitten by an infected bat, the virus will travel to the person eating that fruit. Other people who come into close contact with the infected person are at higher risk to get the virus.

What Is Nipah Virus? All You Need To Know

Who are at high risk?

Dr Shah shares that the following people are at higher risk from the virus:

  • People working with pigs and who consumes pig meat
  • Those who come in direct contact with bats
  • Those who consume fruits which are already bitten by an infected bat
  • Those who are in touch with people who already have the Nipah virus
  • If you have a strong immune system, the Nipah virus is unlikely to attack you

Are children at risk from the virus?

  • As their immune systems are not fully developed, children should not get exposed to people with higher risks of carrying the disease
  • If your child shows symptoms, consult the doctor immediately. 

Travel restrictions:

After two suspected cases were reported from Mangaluru, the Karnataka Health Department issued a circular to screen travellers from Kozhikode and Malappuram districts of Kerala. Most of the Nipah virus deaths were reported from these two districts of Kerala. Travellers from these places will be screened for 18 days for flu-like symptoms.

Following the deaths in Kerala, the govt of Tamil Nadu has also issued travel advisories asking people to cancel or postpone visiting in and around Kozhikode district of Kerala.

How to treat the disease?

As the condition of the patient deteriorates rapidly, infected patients require intensive care monitoring. However, symptoms of the Nipah virus infection like nausea, vomiting and convulsions can be treated with the antiviral medicine Ribavirin, also known as tribavirin. It is approved by The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in respiratory viral infection.

Watch the video to understand how our immune system works.

How to prevent its spread?

  • Avoid contact with pigs and those who handle pigs
  • Maintain personal hygiene and hand-washing practices
  • Avoid consuming raw fruits and wash all fruits and vegetables properly
  • Consume only hygienically prepared food, preferably home-cooked food till the outbreak settles down
  • If you want to take extra precaution, use face masks while travelling or working in public places to avoid person to person transmission
  • WHO has put Nipah virus on the list of urgent research priority, as it has the potential to cause an epidemic
  • As of now, there is no effective antiviral therapy for the Nipah virus
  • However, there is no need to panic. Take all the precautions mentioned above

Looking for expert tips and interesting articles on parenting? Subscribe now to our magazine. Connect with us on Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube