According to the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, Nipah virus (NiV) is a member of the family Paramyxoviridae, genus Henipavirus. NiV was initially isolated and identified in 1999 during an outbreak of encephalitis and respiratory illness among pig farmers and people with close contact with pigs in Malaysia and Singapore. Its name originated from Sungai Nipah, a village in the Malaysian Peninsula where pig farmers became ill with encephalitis. Given the relatedness of NiV to Hendra virus, bat species were quickly singled out for investigation and flying foxes of the genus Pteropus were subsequently identified as the reservoir for NiV.
The diseases which are transmitted from infected animals to humans are called zoonotic disease. Hence, Nipah virus comes under zoonotic disease. The Nipah Virus has affected domestic animals including cats, dogs, goats, and horses. But initially, it has primarily affected humans in different regions of the globe.
How is it transmitted?
There are three modes of transmission of Nipah Virus. From infected bats, from infected pigs and from NiV infected people(person to person). The virus comes from infected bats through their excretion and secretion in the form of saliva, semen, and urine. In pigs, which is spread through their cough.
Furthermore, the outbreak of Nipah Virus in Malaysia and Singapore was mainly because of the close contact with pigs. Initially, NiV Virus has been transmitted from bat to pig, subsequently from pig to pig. The incident of person to person infection was not reported in this outbreak.
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For the first time, person to person transmission of Nipah Virus was reported in Bangladesh and India. The transmission of NiV can also occur with direct contact with infected bats. Fruit bats of Pteropodidae family are the natural host for the Nipah Virus.
Some research suggests that intensive agriculture has played an important role in the transmission of NiV. For example, between the 1970s and 1990s, the pig and mango production has tripled in Malaysia. Mango trees were planted near pig flanks. The trees attracted bats, the bats fed and roosted on the trees, it infected the nearby livestock. Eventually, it coated the mango farmers.
Symptoms Of Nipah Virus
The incubation period varies from four days to 2 weeks and in some cases, it can extend up to 60 days. It can cause respiratory disease and high fever followed by seizure resulting in death. In some serious cases, the symptoms are carried out in the form of gastrointestinal bleeding or renal impairment.
Initially, it shows influenza-like symptoms resulting in high fever, sore throat, headache, and weakness. Further, it can be followed by abnormal sleep, altered consciousness, neurological problems which are accompanied by nausea and vomiting. In Bangladesh people accompanied with NiV experienced severe respiratory problems and atypical pneumonia.
Diagnosis of Nipah Virus
Since Nipah is a high level of transmission, it comes under BSL-4 (Bio Security Level). A very small number of diagnostic labs exists around the world. According to CDC, Virus isolation attempts and real time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) from the throat and nasal swabs, cerebrospinal fluid, urine, and blood are performed in the early stages of a disease. Antibody detection by ELISA (IgG and IgM) can be used later on.
Prevention and Treatment of Nipah Virus
Currently, there is no vaccine that can cure this deadly virus. In vitro, the drug ribavirin has been effective against the virus. But the human use of ribavirin still remains uncertain. To reduce the risk of transmission, regular hand washing should be done. Furthermore, gloves and mask should be used while dealing will sick animals.
(Inputs from CDC website)