Communicable Diseases

Nipah Virus


Nipah virus (NiV) was first discovered in Malaysia in 1998. About 260 people were diagnosed with it after contracting the infection from imported pigs. The disease was later controlled after disposing of a large number of pigs. The virus appeared again in Bangladesh in 2001, and continued to appear frequently. Cases were reported in eastern India and the Philippines. New cases have recently been recorded, for the first time, in the Indian state of Kerala. 

NiV is a zoonotic virus that is transmitted from fruit bats (the natural host of the virus) to pigs. It is then transmitted to humans in direct contact with these infected pigs.

  • Direct contact  
  • Consumption of food contaminated with secretions from infected pigs and bats
  • Human-to-human transmission of Nipah virus has also been reported, including in health care facilities where prevention measures weren't properly applied

Incubation period (interval from infection to the onset of symptoms):
It is believed to range from 4 to 14 days. However, an incubation period as long as 45 days has been reported.

Human infections range from asymptomatic infection to acute respiratory infection (mild or severe). Fatal encephalitis is also among NiV symptoms. Infected individuals may show flu-like symptoms, including: fever, headaches, myalgia (muscle pain), vomiting and sore throat. This can be followed by dizziness, drowsiness, altered consciousness, and neurological signs that indicate acute encephalitis. Encephalitis and seizures can occur in severe cases, progressing to coma within 24 to 48 hours. 

There are currently no specific drugs or vaccines for NiV although WHO has identified it as a priority disease for the WHO Research and Development Blueprint. Intensive supportive care is recommended to treat severe respiratory and neurological complications of the disease. 

The only way to reduce or prevent infection among people is by raising awareness of the risk factors and educating people about the measures they can take to reduce exposure to NiV. This can happen by: 
  • Keeping bats away from fresh food products;
  • Thoroughly washing and peeling fruits before consuming them;
  • Avoiding eating fruits if bat bites were noticed;
  • Boiling freshly collected date palm juice;
  • Wearing gloves and other protective clothing while handling sick animals or their tissues;
  • Avoiding contact with infected pigs in infected areas;
  • Avoiding close unprotected physical contact with Nipah virus-infected people; 
  • Regularly washing hands after caring for or visiting sick people;
  • Health-care workers caring for patients with suspected or confirmed infection must implement standard infection control precautions at all times.

Health Alerts:
Currently, there are no specific health alerts from international health agencies about traveling to and from the Indian state of Kerala. However, the Ministry of Health, in coordination with WHO, is working on several general preventive measures, such as: 
  • Enhanced supervision of entry ports;
  • Educating health workers on the disease, its symptoms, methods of diagnosis and correct ways of handling it in health facilities;
  • Providing the necessary diagnostic tests. 
  • Epidemiological developments are taking place on a daily basis with WHO through the International Health Regulations liaison office at the Ministry of Health.

Last Update : 24 June 2020 01:05 AM
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