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New Delhi, XX May 2018: Some simple hygienic practices can help people from contracting the brain-damaging Nipah virus. These include frequent washing of hands and cooking food properly before consuming it. The virus has thus far claimed about 13 lives in Kerala and led to quarantining of at least 40 others. The latest outbreak has affected four districts of Kerala — Kozhikode, and the neighboring districts of Malappuram, Kannur and Wayanad.
The Nipah virus is a zoonotic disease naturally transmitted from vertebrate animals to humans. Human-to-human transmission has also been documented. The condition was first identified among pig farmers in Malaysia, and the disease surfaced in Siliguri, West Bengal in 2001 and again in 2007. It has been affirmed that those outside of Kerala need to be careful only if they are travelling to the affected areas or coming into contact with an infected person.
Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr K K Aggarwal, President, HCFI, said, “Clinically, the main presentation of Nipah virus infection is as an encephalitic syndrome characterized by onset of non-specific symptoms – sudden onset of fever, headache, myalgia, nausea and vomiting followed by drowsiness, disorientation and mental confusion. The infected person can become comatose within 24 to 48 hours. The case fatality rate of Nipah encephalitis ranges from 9% to 75%. There is no effective treatment for Nipah virus infection. The mainstay of treatment is supportive care focusing on managing fever and the neurological symptoms. Infection control practices and barrier nursing are important as person-to-person transmission may occur. Severely ill patients need intensive care.”
Ribavirin, a nucleoside analog, can be given empirically as it has a broad spectrum of antiviral activity against both RNA and DNA viruses.
Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Vice President of CMAAO, said, “Nipah virus is classified internationally as a biosecurity level (BSL) 4 agent. Biosafety Level 4 is required for work with dangerous and exotic agents that pose a high individual risk of aerosol-transmitted laboratory infections and life-threatening disease that is frequently fatal, for which there are no vaccines or treatments, or a related agent with unknown risk of transmission (CDC).”
Some additional tips from HCFI.
• Ensure that the food you eat is not contaminated by bats or their feces. Avoid consuming fruits bitten by bats.
• Avoid drinking toddy that is brewed in open containers near palm trees.
• Prevent contact with anyone who has contracted the disease. Sanitize and wash your hands thoroughly of you happen to visit someone with NiV.
• Clothes, utensils and items typically used in the toilet or bathroom, like buckets and mugs, should be cleaned separately and maintained hygienically.
• It is important to cover the face while transporting the dead body of anyone who dies after contracting Nipah fever. Refrain from hugging or kissing the dead person and take precautions while bathing the body before cremation or burial.