Already reeling under the rising cases of Covid-19, Kerala recently witnessed the first mortality from Nipah virus this year after a 12-year-old boy from Kozhikode succumbed to it. Th virus outbreak has resurfaced after 2018 and is spread by saliva of the fruit bats.
On September, the sample for the 12-year old boy with encephalitis and myocarditis- inflammation of the brain and heart muscles respectively was sent to the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, where it turned positive for Nipah. Meanwhile, a team has been sent to Kerala to support the state in public health measures.
What is Nipah Virus
Nipah Virus is ‘Zoonotic virus’ that means it is an infectious disease caused by a pathogen that has jumped from an animal to a human. The virus is contagious that means in can be transmitted through contaminated food or between people.
Animal host reservoir for both NiV and HeV is the fruit bat, also known as ‘flying fox’ infected fruit bats spread the disease to humans and animals like pigs, cats, dog, horses, goats and sheep.
Human beings get infected if they come in close contact with infected animals, through their body fluids like saliva or urine. The transmission of infected from animals to humans is called “spillover” With the infection moving to humans, the person-to person spread of Niv is possible.
Symptoms of Nipah virus and how dangerous it is
NiV infections start with fever and headache that lasts for three days of two weeks followed by cough, sore throat and difficulty in breathing. The condition can later progress or major swelling in the brain leading to death.
Symptoms for nipa virus can appear anytime between two days after exposure two weeks On progressing to encephalitis, the patient starts feeling drowsy, disoriented and with mental confusions that can progress to a coma within 1.2 days. About 40 per cent to 75 per cent cases lead to death, says the WHO. In 2018 Kozhikode saw 90 per cent fatality rate after its outbreak.
The side effects from persistent convulsions to change in personality are long term in most cases. According to United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, in some cases symptoms might occur after a month or year of contracting the virus.
Timeline of Nipah virus in India and it was dealt with
Nipah became widely known in India in 2018, when 18 confirmed cases were reported in Kozhikode, of which 17 resulted in death. In 2001, Nipah entered India and hit Siliguri in West Bengal where 66 cases were reported and witnessed high mortality rate. It returned again in 2007 in West Bengal’s Nadia where five people died from it.
In June 2018, when Kerala faced Nipah, it did not had prior experience in handling it and hence adopted the tracing and isolating strategy of infected people and their contacts. Around 3,000 people were under quarantine in Kozhikode and nearby Malappuram districts. A control room was opened at the district headquarters and direct or indirect contact with the suspected Nipah cases, were put under observation. Health care workers were given psychological support, more ambulances were deployed to pick suspected patients. Family of the infected or under surveillance were free ration.
Then Kerala Health Minister K K Shailaja earned international acclaim for helming the public health response to the virus threat.
Curbs and containment strategies put into place now in Kerala?
Three wards under Chathamangalam panchayat in Kozhikode, where the first victim of Nipah lived has been completely closed down with police barricades and checkpoints and micro-level restrictions are in place. To and fro movement in these three wards have been completely banned.