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NIPAH VIRUS

SYLLABUS: GS MAINS PAPER 2 AND GS MAINS PAPER 3- Issues related to health and science & technology

Recently, a case of Nipaah Virus has been detected and one confirmed death in the Kozhikode northern district of Kerala.

NIPAH VIRUS

1. The Nipah virus (NiV) is a zoonotic virus (transmitted from animals to humans) according to World Health Organisation.

2. The virus first broke out in Malaysia and Singapore in 1998 and 1999 respectively. It is named after a village in Malaysia Sungai Nipah.

3. In India, the first outbreak was in 2001 Siliguri and another happened in 2007 in Nadia of West Bengal.

3. It is believed that the virus is maintained in nature by ‘flying foxes` (a type of fruit bat) from the Pteropodidae family and Pteropus genus widely found in South and South East Asia.

4.  Fruit bats are natural reservoir hosts of the Nipah and Hendra viruses.

HOW DOES IT SPREAD?

1. It is an infectious disease that is transmitted between species, from animals to humans.

2. Fruit bats known to be host reservoir of NiV transmit the virus to other animals like pigs and also dogs, goats, horses, cats and sheep.

3. It can be transmitted through consumption of contaminated food by the saliva or urine of these infected animals or through directly contact with animals.

4. The spread of the virus is rapid and fatal.

5. Transmission through person to person has also been documented.

SYMPTOMS

The infection presents as an encephalitis syndrome. Infected people initially develop high fever, headache, muscle pain, sore throat and vomiting followed by dizziness, drowsiness, altered consciousness and signs that indicate acute encephalitis.

Treatment

1. Present, there is no licensed treatments available for Nipah virus infection. Treatment is limited to supportive care, including rest, hydration and treatment of symptoms as they occur.

2. As per National Centre for Disease Control, “Immunotherapeutic treatments (monoclonal antibody therapies) that are currently under development and evaluation for the treatment of NiV infection. “

WHY THE NIPAH VIRUS IS CONSIDERED HIGHLY DANGEROUS?

1. It has a high rate of fatality at 40-75% which can rise up to 100% in some cases.

2. In India, the fatality rate has been between 72-86%.

3. According to a paper published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases mentions, “ Although only 10% of Nipah patients transmits the virus to others, transmission is highly heterogeneous and super spreaders have infected dozens of people.’’

4. There are currently no vaccines and licensed drug against Nipah virus infection.

PREVENTION

While there is no vaccine available for the infection, preventive measures can be key to control the spread.

1. Raising awareness among humans about the signs, symptoms, and risk of NiV such as contact with fruit bats or items contaminated by fruit bats.

2. Fruit bats are the primary cause of infection, the farm animals should be prevented from eating fruit contaminated by bats.

3. Consumption of contaminated date palm sap including toddy (palm wine) should also be avoided.

4. Physical barriers can be put in place to prevent bats from accessing and contaminating palm sap.

5. Medical officials should take precautions like washing hands, using a gown, cap mask and wearing gloves while treating patients of NiV.

6. Precautions should also be taken when submitting and handling laboratory samples, as well as in slaughterhouses.

NEED OF THE HOUR

It is high time for centre and state government to take up containment measures. There is need of urgent steps to be taken by them including contact tracing, isolation, quarantine, collection and transportation of samples for lab testing.

CONCLUSION

According to World Health Organisation, the risk of transmission via contaminated foods with urine or saliva from infected bats can be prevented by washing them thoroughly and peeling them before use. Fruit which shows the bat bites signs should be throw away. It is time that the state takes continuous monitoring and surveillance for the virus in fruit bats

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