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Nipah Virus: A Complete Guide to Prevention and Treatment

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Nipah Virus: A Complete Guide to Prevention and Treatment

Critical Care Medicine | Posted on 11/29/2023 by Dr. Aparna Pande



Introduction

In the year 1998, the Nipah virus was detected in Malaysia and Singapore which evolved as an ominous string, knitting its narrative of peril and enigma. It becomes increasingly important that we comprehend the subtleties of emerging viruses like the Nipah Virus as we navigate the spheres of global health. This virus belongs to the Paramyxoviridae family and can be transmitted from animals to humans, conjugated with its high mortality rate, locating it in the zone of zoonotic viruses. It is vital to be observant of symptoms like high fever, nausea, vomiting, headache, etc. to detect the problem. 

If you suspect any of these and believe that you may have this disease, then book your appointment with one of the best multispeciality hospitals, CK Birla Hospitals in Jaipur. They have incorporated a team of healthcare professionals having the expertise and skills in their respective fields. 

In this blog, we will embark on the journey of discussing the Nipah Virus, its outbreak, symptoms, precautions, treatment, facts, and myths related to it.

Please note that this is for informative purposes only and we do not promote overlooking the doctor’s consultation in any way. 

What is the Nipah virus?

Nipah Virus is a zoonotic virus also termed NiV that spreads between humans and animals. It spreads primarily through flying foxes also known as fruit bats. However, it is also transmissible through pigs and other animals such as cats, dogs, horses, and bats. The virus often transmits when:

  • People or animals come in contact with the infected animal bodily fluids like pee, or saliva. 
  • Humans who eat food that has been infected by a contagious animal. 
  • People coming in contact with an infected person from the Nipah virus often occur while taking care of them. 

One of the finest ways to prevent the Nipah virus is avoiding exposure to infected or sick animals, mainly in the transmission areas. It involves evading food products contaminated by an infected animal. It is also recommended to elude or take precautions while visiting or coming into contact with the infected person as it spreads from human to human via bodily fluids. 

NiV disease leads to mild to serious symptoms that often involve brain infection and eventually death. No medicine or vaccine is there for the treatment of this disease. Management of the symptoms is the only approach to treat this virus. 

Nipah virus symptoms 

Here are the initial symptoms of the Nipah virus:

  • Cough
  • Sore throat 
  • Fever
  • Severe headache
  • Breathing issues
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle pain and serious weakness
  • Vomiting

Symptoms usually start within four to fourteen days after getting exposed to the virus. People experiencing this disease usually complain about high fever, headache, and respiratory issues like breathing problems.

In some cases, the patient can develop brain infection or encephalitis which is dangerous. Here are other symptoms of the Nipah Virus:

  • Respiratory distress 
  • Blurring speech 
  • Seizures 
  • Coma 
  • Confusion 
  • Disorientation

Previous outbreaks of the Nipah virus

Nipah virus epidemics arise almost every year in most Asian parts, mainly in Bangladesh and India. When the virus was initially identified in 1998, it caused 100 fatalities in Singapore and Malaysia. It caused a huge economic influence in the countries due to which more than one million pigs were killed. There have been roughly twenty more outbreaks since 1999. The recent outbreak is the fourth in Kerala state since 2018, the sixth in India, and the third Nipah virus outbreak in the Kozhikode district of Kerala.

Cause of Nipah Virus

One of the primary causes of the Nipah virus is transmission through direct contact with infected animals like bats or their bodily fluids. It also involves fruit or juice consumption that is infected by bat urine or saliva. Here are other factors that contribute to the transmission of the Nipah Virus: 

  • Intermediate hosts- The virus that infects humans in some epidemics spread from bats to intermediate hosts. There's a chance that an animal near the bats—direct or indirect—transmits the virus to humans. In Malaysia and Singapore, pigs were previously found to be an intermediate host in the Nipah virus epidemic. 
  • Human-to-human spread- The transmission of this virus can easily move from human to human, mainly for those in close contact. It is an essential concern increasing the probability of massive epidemics. Human transmission occurs due to respiratory droplets and direct contact with the person who is infected or even coming into contact with the contagious surfaces.
  • Consuming contaminated food or drinking infected water- There have been cases reported where the Nipah virus has been spread by eating a raw date palm sap tainted with bat urine or saliva. This is especially important in regions where date palm sap is harvested and eaten.
  • Nosocomial Transmission: The term "nosocomial transmission" describes the virus spreading within hospital environments. Hospitals have come across instances of the Nipah virus spreading due to tainted medical equipment, touching the infected patients, or inadequate infection control protocols.

Prevention of Nipah Virus

If you reside in or travel to a region where the Nipah virus is common, you must take the following precautions to avert getting infected: 

  • Washing your hands regularly
  • Evading getting infected through sick pigs or bats 
  • Cleaning and disinfecting pig farms. It is vital to quarantine the infected animals. 
  • Evade from trees or bushes where bats live 
  • Do not eat or drink anything that is infected like a fruit or palm sap. If you want to eat, then make sure to boil it. Ensure washing and peeling the fruits before eating. 
  • Ensure throwing away any fruit that is half eaten or even touched the ground 
  • Try not to come into contact with the bodily fluids like blood, saliva, etc. of an infected animal or person. 

Treatment of Nipah Virus 

There is no treatment or cure like antiviral medications to treat the Nipah Virus. The only way is the management of the symptoms which involves:

  • Drink a lot of water 
  •  Getting sufficient rest 
  • Using medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen 
  • Use of inhalers and nebulizers to ease breathing problems 
  • Vomiting or nausea medications 
  • Antiseizure medications for people experiencing a seizure

Facts & Myths related to the Nipah Virus 

Here are some of the facts and myths related to the Nipah Virus:

Facts 

  • The Nipah virus originated in fruit bats.
  • The virus can easily spread to humans through direct contact with contagious bats, food consumption, and contact with contagious animals.
  • It transmits from person to person mainly through coming into contact with a contagious individual. 
  • Symptoms of the Nipah virus involve headache, drowsiness, high fever, brain inflammation, in serious, coma or death.
  • It was first detected in the year 1998 in Malaysia, and after that several outbreaks were reported in Bangladesh and India.
  • There is no cure or treatment available for the Nipah virus. Symptoms can be managed by evading direct contact with an infected animal or human and avoiding food consumption of raw dates or palms that have touched the ground.

Myths

  • It can spread very easily, it’s not true. The virus is not highly infectious.
  • All animals like bats carry the virus. It is a muth and not all animals carry the virus. The virus spreads through the bodily fluids of an infected animal or human.
  • Some believe that if the food is well-cooked, it evades the risk of virus transmission. However, this is also a myth as well and the virus can be transmitted through food consumption and other food items.
  • The Nipah virus is life-threatening. This is not true again, however, the infection can be serious as it has a higher rate of mortality than other infections. Early diagnosis can care can enhance the survival chances.

Conclusion 

The Nipah virus is a potentially fatal virus specifically infecting pigs and bats. Avoiding sick animals is the best way to fight against it, mainly in regions where outbreaks are usual. You must ensure staying away from people who have the virus unless you are using infection control procedures and appropriate precautions because it transmits from person to person. If you have recently traveled to an area where the Nipah virus is known to be active and you experience symptoms like fever, headache, or difficulty breathing, you should consult a healthcare provider.

Faq’s


When did the Nipah virus start?

The Nipah virus was first identified in the year 1998 in Malaysia and Singapore. 

How is Nipah spread?

The Nipah virus spreads primarily through flying foxes also known as fruit bats via their bodily fluids. It is transmissible from human to human and humans get infected by coming into contact with an infected animal.

What is the Nipah outbreak?

Nipah Virus is a zoonotic virus also termed NiV that spreads between humans and animals. It spreads primarily through flying foxes also known as fruit bats. When the virus was initially identified in 1998, it caused 100 fatalities in Singapore and Malaysia. It caused a huge economic influence in the countries due to which more than one million pigs were killed. 

Is the Nipah virus life-threatening?

Yes, the Nipah virus is a life-threatening disease with no cure or treatment, only the symptoms can be managed.