Nipah Virus an overview
Nipah virus (NiV) infection is a newly emerging zoonosis that causes severe disease in both animals and humans. NiV was first identified during an outbreak of disease that took place in Kampung Sungai Nipah, Malaysia in 1998. On this occasion, pigs were the intermediate hosts. However, in subsequent NiV outbreaks, there were no intermediate hosts. In Bangladesh in 2004, humans became infected with NiV as a result of consuming date palm sap that had been contaminated by infected fruit bats. Human-to-human transmission has also been documented, including in a hospital setting in India. Nipah virus infection gets its name from the village in Malaysia where the person from whom the virus was first isolated succumbed to the disease. The virus has been listed in the World Organisation for Animal Health.
The natural host of the virus is fruit bats of the Pteropodidae Family, Pteropus genus. It first appeared in domestic pigs and has been found among several species of domestic animals including dogs, cats, goats, horses, and sheep. The infection is also known to affect human beings. The organism which causes Nipah Virus encephalitis is an RNA or Ribonucleic acid virus of the family Paramyxoviridae, genus Henipavirus, and is closely related to Hendra virus. It further goes on to state that ‘presence of high density, amplifying host population facilitated transmission of the virus to human.’
The incubation period for the virus ranges from 5 to 14 days and symptoms become visible after this period. Symptoms include fever, headache, fainting, and nausea. In some cases, symptoms like choking, stomach pain, vomiting, fatigue and blurred vision could also be there. The patient can possibly go into a coma just two days after the symptoms begin. The chance of contracting encephalitis that affects the brain is also high.
PRECAUTIONS & TREATMENTS
There is no vaccine available for the infection, preventive measures can be a key to control the spread. With fruits bats being the primary cause of infection, the farm animals should be prevented from eating fruit contaminated by bats. Consumption of contaminated date palm sap including toddy should also be avoided. Physical barriers can be put in place in order to prevent bats from accessing and contaminating palm sap. The People who are looking after the patients with suspected or confirmed NiV should take basic precautions like washing hands, using a gown, cap mask and wearing gloves.
In case of animals, wire screens can help prevent contact with bats when pigs are raised in open-sided pig sheds. Run-off from the roof should be prevented from entering pig pens. practice. Early recognition of infected pigs can help protect other animals and humans. Due to the highly contagious nature of the virus in swine populations, mass culling of seropositive animals may be necessary.
In patients, treatment is largely managing fever and neurological symptoms. Treatment as of now consists of giving supportive measures to the patient as required.