Nipah virus is a newly emerging zoonotic disease that is causing severe illness and high fatality in animals and humans, said Dr. Satish Kumar, Consultant Internal Medicine, Columbia Asia Hospital, Mysuru.
"When it caused an outbreak of brain fever among pig farmers in Malaysia in 1998, where pigs were the intermediate hosts that was when the Nipah virus was initially discovered. Afterwards, in 2004, there were cases reported in Bangladesh, people who had consumed date palm sap which was contaminated by excreta or saliva of the infected fruit bat. There is still no effective antiviral therapy for this infection," added Dr. Satish.
Nipah Virus Infection (NiV) Symptoms
The symptoms of a Nipah infection at first are not so specific and are asymptomatic in some and in others, it is fever, headache, muscle pain, abdominal pain, nausea, and fainting, vomiting and also respiratory ailments. The disease can rapidly progress ultimately leading to coma within 24 to 48 hours if it is a case of encephalitis. Long term changes like persistent convulsions and personality changes can also occur.
Nipah is transmitted from bats to human beings by consuming food contaminated by bodily fluids of infected fruit bats. Pigs are the intermediate host. Humans can get infected from a pig with the active disease by coming in close frequent contact or handling raw meat from the infected animal or consuming the poorly good meat. Human to human transmission occurs in the case of caregivers or family.
Nipah virus infection is diagnosed through the real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test. That is done on the throat and nasal swabs, cerebrospinal fluid, urine and blood health with a diagnosis of infection during the early stages.
Diagnosis by detection of antibodies against the virus usually is possible in by second week of illness, but the test is not commonly available. Tissue diagnosis is possible by culture or immunohistochemistry, but is rare. There is no effective treatment available for Nipah virus. Treatment includes symptomatic and supportive care. Strict infection control practices and with proper barrier precaution, it can cut back on disease spread.
How can Nipah Virus infection be prevented?
- Do not consume food contaminated by bat body fluid or bat urine/faeces.
- Do not drink in an open container near palm trees.
- Avoid or use preventive measures for close and frequent contact with an infected person. Good hygienic practices such as washing hands before eating and regularly after a visit to public places and the hospital are recommended.
- Avoid pig meat or any by-product of a pig, it is the host for Nipah virus, directly transmitting it to humans from the bats.
- Avoid close physical contact with patients suspected to have the infection. Do not share utensils, clothes, restrooms used by them.
- Health care providers who treat infected persons should wear protective gear-gowns and face masks.
- Avoid fruits which have chances of being contaminated by bat excreta or from areas which have high bat habitation.
Personal hygiene: How to protect yourself from Nipah Virus?
- Maintaining personal hygiene and intensive hand washing practices.
- Avoid fruits, consume only well cooked, clean, homemade.
- Use masks while travelling or working in public places with reported cases of the infection.
- Be aware and report to the doctor immediately for early diagnosis and treatment.
- It is better to stay away from heavily dense dark areas which can be a high chance for bats to reside in.
- When considering to have by-products of a pig, do refrain or only go for the extremely processed ones. Although it isn’t recommended so avoiding the same is the ideal thing to do.