The Nipah Virus (NiV) has taken India by storm. With a kill rate of 40%-100%, the virus has garnered a scary reputation. Lack of information and abundance of misinformation has caused havoc throughout the country. If you too are unsure as to how to detect and cure the disease, here are 5 FAQs that will help you understand better.
What is the Nipah Virus?
The virus causes severe diseases in both humans and animals. The disease is usually spread by fruit bats, infected pigs and due to contact with other infected individuals. The virus is currently untreatable and there is no vaccine available for it. The virus can be contacted by consuming fruits partially eaten by bats or other animals. In rare cases, consuming the meat of an affected animal can also cause the deadly disease. The incubation period (time from when the infection happens to symptoms appearing) ranges from 4 to 14 days.
What are the symptoms of the virus?
The virus presents a wide range of symptoms, many of them as common as a cold or a cough. General symptoms include fever, headache, drowsiness, disorientation, confusion and in extreme cases, coma. Due to such vague symptoms, it is hard to detect the virus in its early stage. The virus usually affects the respiratory system. Patients may experience breathlessness or even severe oxygen hunger. In certain cases, it affects the patient neurologically by causing inflammation of the brain. This can lead the patient into a coma.
What is the prevention?
There is no prescribed treatment for the virus. All doctors can offer is intensive care and support to those infected with the virus. The WHO and Centre for Disease Control and Prevention have put out a number of guidelines to prevent the incurable virus. It is suggested that all fruits be scrutinized and washed before consumption. Unpasteurized fruit juices and other fruit products should be avoided. Also, as it is an airborne virus, it is advisable to wear masks, avoid public places and maintaining a distance from affected individuals.
It is not all bad news; Nipah Virus outbreaks are usually cloistered and are limited to certain areas. With proper protocol and precaution, the virus can be controlled. So, unless you’re living near certain affected parts of Kerala or Karnataka, you should be fine.
Has it happened before?
The Nipah Virus broke out first in Malaysia and Singapore in 1998 and 1999 respectively. India too has dealt with the virus before. 45 people lost their lives when the virus hit Siliguri, West Bengal in 2001 and 5 people succumbed when it hit the district of Nadia in the same state. This might not be the last time we deal with Nipah. As per the WHO data, over 600 cases of Nipah virus human infections have been reported. But with research and rapid developments in the medical field, there is hope for vaccine and medication soon.
What happened this time?
In May 2018, an outbreak was reported in Kerala. 11 people succumbed to the virus and many are being diagnosed and treated. The state authorities announced that the situation was under control and people mustn’t panic. One of the people to lose their lives to the deadly virus is Lini Puthuserry, a nurse who contracted the virus while selflessly treating patients. It was later confirmed that the virus has spread to Karnataka after two cases were reported. The two cases included a 20-year-old woman and a 74-year-old man. The state has been on high alert ever since. Let us take a closer look at the outbreak and understand it further.