As we know about the recent outbreak of Nipah virus encephalitis, which has raised a major concern in the Indian healthcare sector for its untreatable nature. This is the first outburst reported at Kerala in May 2018 at Kozhikode district where the death toll has now reached 17, as the National Virology Institute of Pune has confirmed the same.
According to WHO, Nipah is a newly emerging strain of virus that can be spread from animals to humans, the process is medically known as “zoonosis”. Nipah virus is mainly spread by fruit bats, a biological name isPteropodidae Pteropus also known as flying foxes, which is reportedly one of the largest bats in the world.
History of past outbreaks-
Kampung Sungai Nipah is the place in Malaysia where the disease got its nomenclature after the first outbreak of 1998. Later, the similar cases of infections reported were from Bangladesh in 2004. The immediate reason for the Bangladesh outbreak was identified as consumption of infectious palm trees sap. It was then the fruit bats were recognized as the source of infection. While in the previous case of the disease was reported by the infected pigs in Malaysia. The recent studies on the Kerala outbreaks have denoted that it can also be spread by human-to-human through contaminated fluids.
This is the third Nipah outbreak in India as per the reports. In 2001 Siliguri, West Bengal has witnessed 45 deaths and 66 cases of the same infection. In 2007, Nadia district recorded 5 infections that followed by the deaths of infected persons.
The infection is asymptomatic in animals (pigs and fruit bats) while in humans, it can be noted with various clinical presentations. High fever, muscle pain, sore throat, headache, dizziness, and mental confusion are the major symptoms. Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), respiratory disorders and neurological problems are the complexities that may follow to seizures and coma that can eventually lead to the death of the infected person.
The incubation period of the virus is recorded to be from 5 days up to 14 days. According to the WHO report, disease fatality has been recorded as 40-75% based on the efficiency of infected areas in its clinical approaches to deal with the outbreak.
The disease is relatively new and the past outbreaks of the same are still being studied around the globe for its pathological and epidemiological aspects. As of now, there is no vaccination or treatment available that can cure infections and complexities resulted from the Nipah virus. But supportive cares, quarantine methods, and preventive measures can be applied to deal with diagnosed patients and limiting its further spread.
Consumption of the infected date palm sap should be avoided, as the infection is reportedly spread from fruit bat feces that have contaminated open palm tree saps flowing through its bark. Proper measures should be employed handling pig farms and the slaughtering houses. Medical professionals dealing with the infectious patients should cover themselves with masks and gloves and the family members of the persons infected should be educated about the risks involved while handling the patient, as it can be spread through close contact and contaminated fluid.