Till now three people in Kerala have been affected by the Nipah virus that can prove to be a fatal one. The deaths happened at the Kozhikode district where two people passed away from a viral fever that was ostensibly caused by this virus. This was confirmed by the state health department who tested the blood samples of the deceased.
At the moment, both government and private hospitals have been put on high alert so that the disease, as well as its spread, can be monitored properly. WHO (World Health Organization) says that this viral infection is a new one and belongs to a new genus that has been named Henipavirus.
This virus belongs to a subfamily named Paramyxovirinae. WHO calls such a disease zoonosis – the one that is transmitted from animals to the humans.
Fruit bats happen to be the natural and primary hosts of this particular virus. These fruit bats belong to the family named Pteropodidae. A previous instance when this disease happened was in 2004 when a number of individuals were taken ill after they consumed date palm that had been poisoned by fruit bats who were themselves infected by the virus. Pigs can act as intermediate hosts as well.
It was reported for the first time ever in 1998 at a village named Kampung Sungai Nipah in Malaysia. The virus draws its name from that village itself. As far as India is concerned the first time an outbreak happened was in 2001 in West Bengal. Once again, fruit bats were held solely responsible for this outbreak. In fact, in 2001 plenty of people in Bangladesh fell ill after consuming palm sap that fruit bats had contaminated. WHO has recently stated that the instances of this disease being transmitted among humans are slowly rising.
The symptoms of Nipah are pretty much the same as influenza. You suffer from fever, experience pain in the muscles, and have trouble breathing as well. Your brain can be inflamed too and this can cause you to be disoriented as well. At times, you may also contract Encephalitis especially in the later stages of the disease.
At times, you may also just have an asymptomatic infection and carry the virus without showing any symptoms as such.
Doctors perform four tests in order to diagnose this disease – Serology, PCR, Histopathology, and virus isolation. Serology basically means blood tests conducted to check for the presence of antibodies. In Histopathology a microscopic study of the tissues is performed. The term PCR stands for Polymerase Chain Reaction. This is a technique that is supposed to check if the viral DNA/RNA (DeoxyriboNucleic/Ribonucleic Acid) is present in your body or not.
There are three tests that are done in order to confirm whether you are suffering from the Nipah virus or not. They are the Serum Neutralization Test, RT-PCR (Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction), and ELISA (Enzyme-linked immune sorbent assay). Normally the Nipah virus is accorded the status of a biosafety level (BSL) 4 agent. This is the reason why the tests need to take place in special labs so as to make sure that it does not spread. In fact, the body and blood samples of the deceased from Kozhikode were studied at the National Virology Institute, Pune.
As of now, there are no vaccines for this disease as far as both animals and human beings are concerned. In case of human beings affected by the virus intensive supportive care is the only way out. WHO says that ribavirin can be used in order to reduce nausea-like symptoms. It can also address convulsions and vomiting that are normally related to this disease. If someone has been infected she or he needs to be isolated and hospitalized and must wear mask to restrict the spread of the deadly virus. Special care also needs to be taken in order to make sure that the disease is not transmitted from one human to another.
It is also important to set up surveillance systems in order to make sure that the virus can be detected quickly enough and so that proper control measures can be initiated.