A 12-year-old boy from Kerala died from Nipah virus on Sunday. Two more people from the state have been identified with Nipah virus symptoms. This has brought focus to the deadly virus with high fatality rate again that was first spotted in Malaysia in the year 1990. It was first detected in India in Siliguri, West Bengal in 2001 when 45 people died. Kerala had reported several cases of it in 2018. The case fatality rate of Nipah virus is 40-80% while its incubation period is two weeks.
Nipah virus (NiV) can be described as a zoonotic virus, which is transmitted via animals to humans, and can also be transmitted via contaminated food or directly between people and is caused by fruit bats. Those infected with it can encounter severe problems like acute respiratory illness and fatal encephalitis.
It is not an airborne infection and in fact, is transmitted from bats and pigs. It is fatal not only for humans but animals too.
Those infected with Nipah virus may showcase Covid-like symptoms. The common symptoms of Nipah Virus are cough, sore throat, dizziness, drowsiness, muscle pain, tiredness, and encephalitis that is the swelling of the brain causing a headache, stiff neck, sensitivity to light, mental confusion, and seizures. One may also become unconscious and it can ultimately lead to death.
There is no definite line of treatment available for this virus. On spotting the above symptoms, one will have to consult the doctor immediately who will confirm the diagnosis of this virus and help you with supportive care. You will also be prescribed medication by the doctor for taking care of encephalitis and other symptoms. Do not self-medicate as it can be risky and worsen your condition.
Avoid eating fruits that have fallen on the ground as they may be contaminated or avoid coming in contact with infected animals and humans. There is no vaccine available to help you successfully get treated for this virus. Keep fruit bats away from you, avoid pig feeding, and stay healthy. If you have any doubts regarding the symptoms then contact your doctor.
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(Inputs by Dr. Bipin Jibhkate, Consultant critical care medicine, and ICU director Wockhardt Hospital, Mira Road)