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Nipah Virus: According to the World Health Organisation, Nipah virus or NiV infection is a newly emerging zoonosis that causes severe disease in both animals and humans. The natural host of the Nipah virus are fruit bats of the Pteropodidae Family, Pteropus genus.

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Nipah virus is fairly new. The virus was first identified in 1998 in Malaysia and pigs were identified as the intermediate host. It spread to humans after they came in contact with pig feces and excretions. Nipah virus gets it’s name from the village where the virus was first spotted in Malaysia. The virus has been found in species of domestic animals including dogs, cats, goats, horses and sheep after they came in contact with pigs. Later Nipah virus showed up in Bangladesh in 2004, where humans became infected with NiV as a result of consuming date palm sap that had been contaminated by infected fruit bats.

There have been cases of human-to-human transmission in hospital settings including in India. The Nipah virus was first reported in India’s Siliguri district in 2001. Of the 66 cases, 45 people lost their lives.

During the outbreak, 33 health workers and hospital visitors became ill after exposure to patients.

Before the current outbreak in Kerala, Nipah virus or NiV had infected 477 people and killed 252.

What are the symptoms of Nipah virus infection?
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, infection with Nipah virus is associated with encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). An infected person shows symptoms of fever and headache within three-14 days of exposure and an incubation period of five to 14 days.
The clinical signs are fever, headache, dizziness and vomiting, followed by drowsiness, disorientation and mental confusion. More than 50 per cent of the patients faced a reduced level of consciousness and prominent brain-stem dysfunction. Some patients have a respiratory illness during the early part of their infections, and half of the patients showing severe neurological signs showed also pulmonary signs.

In Malaysia where the disease was first spotted, 50 percent of patients who showed symptoms died.

Treatment is focused on managing fever and neurological symptoms and offering full support.

Why Has Nipah Virus Emerged?

Epidemiologists attribute the emergence of this type of virus to the loss of the natural habitat of bats. According to the WHO factsheet on the Nipah virus, as a result of this loss the bats get stressed and hungry, their immune system gets weaker, their virus load goes up and a lot of virus spills out in their urine and saliva.

11 people have died in Kerala’s Kozhikode district allegedly after contacting what’s being called the ‘Nipah’ virus, reports The Indian Express. The Union Health Minister has sent a team from National Centre for Disease Control or NCDC to investigate and offer assistance to the local administration. The deaths were attributed to Nipah virus after testing at National Institute of Virology in Pune. The epicentre is at Perambra, about 40 km from Kozhikode.

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