You’ve heard it already—it’s all over the news. The world is paying close attention to the fruit bat disease that’s gripped India—Nipah Virus.
But, what is this virus that’s put the country on high alert, especially Kerala? Where did it come from? What are the Nipah Virus symptoms and health risks?
The Nipah Virus Origins: Not Your Run-Of-The-Mill Viral Fever
Also dubbed as NiV, Nipah Virus first came into the picture in 1998-1999 as a fruit bat disease in Malaysia and Singapore. ‘Nipah’ is the name of a village in Malaysia where the first human fatality was recorded. This new virus in Malaysia steadily found its way across the borders into South Asian countries; primarily India and Bangladesh.
Interestingly, this isn’t the first NiV occurrence in India. According to reports, there were 66 cases and 45 confirmed deaths caused by the virus between Jan-Feb, 2001 in Siliguri (West Bengal)—that’s a 68% fatality rate.
The virus struck again in April 2007 in Nadia (West Bengal) where the number of cases was relatively low at 5 and the fatality rate stood at 100%. The Nipah virus has made a comeback now in 2018 in Kerala now and the number of people who’ve succumbed to NiV in Kerala stands at 11 at present.
Baited By The Bats: Analyzing Nipah Virus Transmission
As the name suggests, the fruit bat disease originates from the fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family which are the natural hosts of the virus. This virus hitch-hikes in the bat’s saliva, urine, faeces, and birthing fluids.
It’s understood that farm pigs come in direct contact with the bats, who then pass on the virus to humans. Another theory is that the virus spreads when humans consume fruits contaminated by the bats. Consequently, the virus expands its outreach through direct human—or animal—contact, or through fomites (objects such as clothes and utensils that carry infections).
Virus Symptoms: When There’s NiV In The Air
Authorities indicate that Nipah Virus transmission from an infected person transpires through air. The infection also shows signs of being encephalitic. In other words, NiV causes inflammation of the brain.
There are several symptoms that are indicative of a person carrying NiV. An infected human can show respiratory, pulmonary, and neurological diseases. Early signs and symptoms include:
- Cognitive Disorders
These illnesses can last for upto a week or more followed by coma—within 48 hours—and loss of life.
The Nipah Virus Treatment That Doesn’t Exist
It’s been almost 20 years since the fruit bat disease was labeled as potential world killer. Now, you’d think that after much progress in health sciences and medicine, there’d at least be an antidote.
Well, there isn’t. There is NO VACCINE for Nipah Virus. Also, the mortality rate is as high as 75%.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t take countermeasures for Nipah Virus prevention. Here are a few precautions you can take:
- Like mice like cheese, bats savour date palm. Stay away from bat food!
- You live in India which is a hotspot for epidemics and viruses. Do you see sick humans and animals around you? Empathize, but keep your distance.
- In context with the point above; if you can’t keep your distance, go home, sanitize yourself and your clothes, and get a health checkup done right away.
- Health professionals treating patients must take utmost care to wear protective masks, gloves, or even glasses at all times.
Sources: World Health Organization