With the Nipah virus cases reaching a total of six in Kozhikode, Kerala, the state government has announced the closure of educational institutions in the district until September 24.
Meanwhile, yesterday, on September 15, Rajeev Bahl, the Director-General of ICMR, announced that India has contacted Australia to acquire an additional 20 doses of monoclonal antibody for treating Nipah virus infections.
To address this concerning situation, Kerala's Health Minister, Veena George, convened a high-level meeting in Kozhikode on September 12.
Furthermore, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya has announced that a team of central experts has been dispatched to the state to assist in managing and investigating this outbreak.
As the alarming situation unfolds, it's crucial to know these five critical things about the Nipah virus.
Nipah virus outbreaks in humans initially occurred in Malaysia in 1998 and subsequently in Singapore in 1999. This virus derived its name from the Malaysian village where the first known individual infected with the virus succumbed to the disease.
Since its initial discovery in 1998-99, several outbreaks, exclusively occurring in countries within South and Southeast Asia, have happened. Notably, Bangladesh has experienced no fewer than ten outbreaks of this virus since 2001.
2. Spread & Symptoms
Nipah is a zoonotic infection, i.e., it can be transmitted to humans through contact with infected animals or consumption of contaminated food. Additionally, direct person-to-person transmission is possible through close contact with an infected individual, as stated by the World Health Organization (WHO).
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), common symptoms of Nipah infection include fever, headache, cough, sore throat, breathing difficulties, and vomiting. In severe instances, the disease can lead to more serious conditions such as disorientation, drowsiness, seizures, encephalitis (brain inflammation), ultimately progressing to a coma and potential fatality.
3. Bats & Nipah
There have been recorded instances of Nipah virus infections in individuals who ventured into areas where bats frequently congregate.
The primary reservoir host for this virus is identified as the fruit bat, commonly referred to as the flying fox. These fruit bats are recognised as carriers of the virus and can transmit it to other animals, including pigs, as well as to dogs, cats, goats, horses, and sheep.
4. Virus Outbreak In India
In India, the state of West Bengal experienced Nipah virus outbreaks in both 2001 and 2007, while Kerala reported several cases in 2018, along with isolated cases in 2019 and 2021. Notably, during the initial outbreak in Siliguri, West Bengal, in 2001, statistics reveal that out of the 66 confirmed infections, 45 individuals tragically lost their lives.
Similarly, in the 2018 outbreak in Kerala, all but one of the 18 confirmed patients succumbed to the infection, resulting in a total of 17 fatalities.
5. Nipah Vs Covid-19
Although the Nipah virus does not spread as quickly as the COVID-19 virus but carries a higher fatality rate. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Nipah is estimated to have an overall global case fatality rate ranging from 40% to 75%.
Nevertheless, it's worth noting that all Nipah virus outbreaks to date have remained localized and were contained relatively swiftly as opposed to COVID-19. One of the primary factors contributing to the speedy containment of outbreaks is the virus's limited infectiousness, as human-to-human transmission is not easily achieved.
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