I don’t know if you have noticed or not, but for past some years, some or other type of infection has been on the rise. The one doing the rounds this year is NiV – Nipah Virus, which has held some districts of Kerala hostage. So far it has already claimed 14 lives in the region, and all efforts might we add successful measures are being taken to keep it constrained to only that part.
When an outbreak of this nature occurs, what do we do? We empower ourselves with knowledge and prepare ourselves to do all we can to ensure safety in such times. NiV is a viral infection which was first recognized in Malaysia in 1999. Its second outbreak was reported in Bangladesh in 2001, and now in our country. This is zoonosis meaning transferrable from animals to humans and has a high mortality rate of up to 75%.
According to an article in Times of India, the scientists at National Institute of Virology are confirming that the virus found in India is genetically similar to that found in Bangladesh. There are two types of strain (for understanding consider strain as a type of form or species of the virus) NiVM and NiVB. The one in India is NiVB. This virus is generally carried around by a specific type of fruit bats belonging to the Pteropus genus. (No, don’t go into the biology, I suggest going with fruit bats). So the story goes that the infected bats contaminated the date palms sap with virus either through the mode of secretion or biting into it, which then infected the humans either by contact during climbing the tree or by mode of consumption of such fruit. The current outbreak is believed to be a result of contact with infected people.
This virus causes fatal encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). The key word being fatal here, which is why the terrorizing state and all efforts to contain the virus and stop it from spreading.The symptoms of it are sudden fever, nausea, headache, vomiting, and disorientation. It can lead to coma and acute respiratory infection as well.
Currently, there are 2 tests being used to diagnose the condition – ELISA (Enzyme-linked ImmunoSorbent Assay) and RT-PC (Real-time Polymerase Chain Reaction).
Presently there is no vaccination or specific treatment available against it. The mode of treatment involves in Intensive care of the patient.There is a pronto need for more data on it, even WHO recognized the need for the same and are stressing an effort on more research and development.
In the meantime, we need to practice prevention:
- Avoid pigs, (the outbreak in Malaysia was resultant from pigs)
- Avoid bats, including any fruits bitten by them or that may have come in contact with their secretion.
- Maintain personal hygiene and follow hand washing practices religiously
- For visitors and healthcare professionals that are in contact with infected people, proper measures like using gloves, protective wear, masks is suggested to avoid contracting infection.
- Consult a doctor if you experience any symptoms.
In the face of such a threat, preventive measures are no longer an option but simply stated THE only solution.