Beware, there is a new virus on the prowl. The Nipah virus has so far claimed 10 people in Kerala. Twenty-five more  have been infected following the Nipah outbreak in India.

The tenth person to have lost her life is 31-year-old Lini. She was a nurse at the Perambra Taluk Hospital who died, on May 21. Lini contracted the deadly virus while tending to a Nipah virus-infected patient.

Things you must know about NiV

  • Nipah virus is one of 10 priority diseases that WHO has identified as potentials for the next major outbreak. It has a mortality rate of 70%.
  • Nipah virus (NiV) infection can be transmitted to humans from animals. The natural host of the virus are fruit bats.
  • The infection was first identified in 1999 during an outbreak of encephalitis and respiratory illness among pig farmers in Malaysia and Singapore.
  • About 300 human cases and over 100 deaths were reported in the Malaysian outbreak. In order to stop it, more than a million pigs were euthanised.
  • Symptoms of the infection include fever, headache, drowsiness, respiratory illness, disorientation and mental confusion. These signs and symptoms can progress to coma within 24-48 hours.

There is no vaccine for either humans or animals. For now, treatment is limited to supportive care

  • It has killed between 40% and 75% of infected people in past outbreaks.
  • People, who survive the initial infection can have lasting health issues, including personality changes and persistent convulsions.
  • The first NiV outbreak in India was observed in 2001 in Siliguri, West Bengal.
  • A second infection had reportedly emerged in Nadia district, West Bengal, in 2007.
  • The outbreak of NiV in Kerala is the latest and third such incident.
  • Avoiding exposure to sick pigs and bats in endemic areas can prevent infection. Also, not drinking raw date palm sap can help in prevention.

Team of doctors to reach Kerala

Jagat Prakash Nadda, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, stated that a team of doctors will be reaching Kerala to help tackle the situation.

Kerala’s health secretary Rajeev Sadanandan told BBC that they’ve sent blood and body fluid samples of all suspected cases for confirmation to National Institute of Virology in Pune. So far, they’ve got confirmation that three deaths were because of Nipah. For now, the challenge is to identify the remaining Nipah cases to ensure the disease doesn’t continue to spread since the treatment is limited to supportive care.

Information source: World Health Organization (WHO)

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Bhawana is an intern with SheThePeople.TV

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