What is the Nipah virus?

WION Web Team
New Delhi, Delhi, India Updated: May 21, 2018, 11:30 AM(IST)

Representative photo. Photograph:( Others )

There is an outbreak of a rare and deadly disease in Kerala called Nipah virus (NiV) which has taken lives of 10 people in the last two weeks. There is no specific treatment for the ‘rare and deadly’ virus and its reported outbreak has resulted in a panic situation in the city.

What is Nipah virus?

Nipah virus (NiV) infection originally emerged in Malaysia and Singapore in 1998 and 1999 which causes diseases in both humans and animals. The natural host of the virus is fruit bats of the Pteropodidae Family, Pteropus genus. It is also closely related to Hendra virus.

It first appeared in domestic pigs and has been found among several species of domestic animals including dogs, cats, goats, horses, and sheep. 

In Bangladesh in 2004, humans became infected with NiV as a result of consuming date palm sap that had been contaminated by infected fruit bats, the WHO says on its website. Human-to-human transmission has also been documented, WHO informed. 

How is Nipah virus transmitted?

WHO says that the virus spreads through fruit bats or 'flying boxes'of the genus Pteropus, who are natural reservoir hosts of the Nipah and Hendra viruses. The virus is present in bat urine and potentially, bat faeces, saliva, and birthing fluids.

In Malaysia and Singapore, human were affected with the virus when they came in contact with the excretions or secretions of infected pigs. Reports from outbreaks in Bangladesh suggest transmission from bats in the process of drinking raw palm sap contaminated with bat excrement or climbing trees coated in the same.

Symptoms of Nipah virus 

NiV infection in humans has a range of clinical presentations, from asymptomatic infection to acute respiratory syndrome and encephalitic syndrome marked by fever, headache, drowsiness, disorientation, mental confusion, coma, and potentially death.

Treatment for Nipah virus

While there is no vaccine for either humans or animals, the primary care that humans can undergo is intensive supportive care, the WHO says. 

Although, a vaccine is being created. A recombinant sub-unit vaccine formulation protects against lethal Nipah virus challenge in cats. ALVAC Canarypox vectored Nipah F and G vaccine appears to be a promising vaccine for swine and has potential as a vaccine for humans, WHO adds.

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