The first known and documented instance of the Nipah virus breakout was in Malaysia in 1999, among pig farmers. This specific virus infections is known to be extremely contagious in pigs. The dangerous part is that the infected pigs show no symptoms at all!
While no new outbreaks were later reported in Malaysia, there were outbreaks reported in Bangladesh and India, linked with the consumption of fruit-based drinks such as raw date palm juice that may have been contaminated by infected fruit bats. Now once again, the Nipah virus has now been detected in Kerala.
The state’s Health Minister KK Shailaja confirmed on Tuesday that a 23 year old college student in Kochi has been diagnosed with the Nipah Virus and cautioned people to be aware of the symptoms.
On a reassuring note, Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan took to Facebook to share that the Nipah virus infection has been confirmed but he emphasized that there is no reason for the public to panic. He has also shared the helpline number on his Facebook post. In his words, “Our health network is ready to rise to this challenge. Under Health Minister’s supervision, all necessary preparations are done. Contact tracing, tracking down those who have interacted with the infected persons have been done.”
Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan requested everyone to follow the Health department’s instructions and warned that strict action will be taken against those who spread misinformation.
He further stated, “We are in constant touch with the Union Health Ministry. Their team of experts have already reached Kochi and their inputs will inform the efforts against Nipah virus outbreak. Together, we overcame the battle against Nipah in 2018 and in this battle also, we are going to prevail.”
CM Pinarayi VIjayan Nipah post:
Health Minister post:
Kerala Health Minister also took to Facebook to say as follows, “Special trained medical professionals are leading the efforts and drugs have been made available. Procured ICMR license for drugs from Australia.”
The Nipah virus is known to be transmitted from animals to humans as well as through food that is contaminated or consumed directly by people. Intensive medical care is recommended to those who are detected with Nipah virus symptoms.
There are currently no drugs or vaccines specific for Nipah virus infection although WHO has identified Nipah as a priority disease for the WHO Research and Development Blueprint. Intensive supportive care is recommended to treat severe respiratory and neurologic complications.
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According to the WHO, the Nipah virus is linked to fruit bats belonging to the Pteropodidae family, which are considered to be the natural host of this specific virus.
A range of illnesses are associated with this zoonotic virus such as asymptomatic infection, fatal encephalitis, acute respiratory illness and more. Also, symptoms include dizziness, vomiting, acute respiratory syndrome, sore throat and muscle aches.
According to the WHO, the case fatality rates is estimated between 40% to about 75%, depending on some of the local capability for its surveillance management.
In WHO’s 2018 annual review of its R&D blueprint list of priority diseases, it has indicated an urgent need for research and development of the Nipah virus.