In the backdrop of the latest ‘Nipah Virus’ outbreak, which has claimed many lives in Kerala, the basic understanding is that this virus has a common carrier in fruit bats. It is a zoonotic virus, meaning it is contracted on to humans through animals, which in this case are bats and pigs. Pigs, however, are secondary carriers. The bats are known to be immune to the virus, although the understanding is that due to the contamination of food items, bat droppings and infected animals the Nipah Virus is spreading fast.
History of ‘Nipah Virus’
The first outbreak was recorded back in 1998 in a village named Kampung Sungai Nipah, Malaysia and hence the name stuck with this virus. The virus has claimed over 250 lives till date and epidemics since 1998 have been reported in Bangladesh and now in the Indian state of Kerala. Medical researchers have been trying to understand this unknown virus for more than a decade now and are yet to find a definitive cure. Currently, measures are taken to contain the virus and manage symptoms, but not cure. According to WHO, between 1998 and 2015, more than 600 human-to-human cases have been reported and has caused multiple deaths.
Going back to the first outbreak in 1998, which continued way into 1999 as well, around 40% of the reported cases suffered deaths.
Symptoms of Nipah Virus
In humans, it takes roughly five to fourteen days for the first signs of symptoms to show up after the first contact. The early signs of symptoms, however, come in the form of fever, headaches, respiratory problems and again, this happens in the period of five to fourteen days. Disorientation, confusion and drowsiness often follow these early symptoms. If not contained promptly, Nipah Virus could lead to the person going into a coma or even encephalitis (swelling of the brain). There have been cases where the virus has ultimately led to the sufferer’s death or brain damage.
There have been reports this virus has long-term effects on human beings, meaning even those who survive this outbreak might have severe consequences in the future. The many stories on this virus cases have suggested the virus may have relapse effects weeks or even years after the initial contact. Long-term problems include personality changes or face the symptoms they did when they first suffered.
As there is no definitive cure for this virus, doctors often offer supportive care and medication is only available for associated problems like seizures or to prevent dehydration. Although here’s a list of preventive measures people can take against Nipah Virus outbreak.
- Avoid close (unprotected) physical contact with infected people
- Protect and cover household property
- Use NH95 or any higher grade of masks
- Maintain a clean body especially hands
- Try to avoid partly eaten fruits and fruit juices that are unpasteurized
- Avoid being around animals, especially places where there are many of them
- Ensure you boil fresh date palm juice collected before consuming
- Wash and thoroughly clean & peel fruits and vegetables before consumption
- Vital to maintaining personal and children’s hygiene
The Nipah Virus is more deadly than we can imagine and the least we could do right now is maintain our health and follow the preventional methods to the core. The virus does not have a proper cure, and even if it is to go away immediately, there are more chances of it returning or causing long-term damage.
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