The Vi­ral Fear

Alive - - Health -

Ni­pah is a highly con­ta­gious and deadly virus first iden­ti­fied in 1999 when pig farm­ers in Malaysia and Sin­ga­pore fell very sick. NiV stands for Ni­pah Virus, a new dis­ease that is trans­mit­ted to hu­mans from an­i­mals. The nat­u­ral hosts for this virus are fruit bats, which may in­fect an in­ter­me­di­ary — which could be a plant or an an­i­mal, con­sump­tion of which spreads the dis­ease among hu­mans.

The vi­ral at­tack leads to acute res­pi­ra­tory trou­ble and fa­tal in­flam­ma­tion of the brain. Al­ter­na­tively, an in­fected per­son may act as a car­rier with­out ex­hibit­ing any symp­toms, since the dis­ease can spread from hu­mans-to-hu­mans as well. Ear­lier cases in­clude:

● 1998 Malaysia — Through pigs. In­fected 265 and killed 105 per­sons. About 1.1 mil­lion pigs had to be culled ● 1999 Sin­ga­pore — Out­break of en­cephali­tis and pneu­mo­nia, 11 peo­ple in­fected

● 2001 Silig­uri, Ben­gal — 45 peo­ple died from 66 re­ported cases

● 2004 Bangladesh — In­fected fruit bats via date palm. Mor­tal­ity rate ex­ceeded 70%

● 2007 West Ben­gal — Five deaths re­ported from Na­dia

There are 2 geno­types of Ni­pah — ‘NiV-M’ and ‘NiV-B’. Most se­quences from Malaysia be­long to the geno­type NiV-M, whereas se­quences from Bangladesh were of NiV-B geno­type. The in­cu­ba­tion pe­riod of the NiV-B strain is 8 days and of NiV-M strain is 6 days. The max­i­mum pe­riod for both the strains is 21 days. Both the strains have high fa­tal­ity rate be­tween 60% and 85%, say sci­en­tist. The trans­mis­sion pat­terns of the 2 strains are dif­fer­ent. Malaysia has well-de­fined pig­geries where pigs get in­fected from the bats. The in­fec­tion am­pli­fies in them and sub­se­quently trans­mits to hu­mans. The Ker­ala virus is in the 97.8 – 97.9% sim­i­lar­ity close to the Niv-B genome se­quence. Trans­mis­sion modes in­clude:

● Inges­tion (if a hu­man eats a fruit com­ing in con­tact with the fruit bat-in­fected saliva)

● In­hala­tion (if a hu­man in­hales or ac­ci­den­tally in­gests tiny droplets of the in­fected urine of the fruit bat

● Only a small por­tion of the fruit-eat­ing bats carry the virus

Hu­man or­gans af­fected by Ni­pah virus in­clude brain, lungs and kid­neys

Symp­toms in­clude fever, headache, dizzi­ness, vom­it­ing, breath­ing trou­ble, brain swelling, drowsi­ness, dis­ori­en­ta­tion and delir­ium. A pa­tient can fall into coma within 48 hours of be­ing in­fected.

There is no vac­cine for ei­ther hu­mans or an­i­mals. Ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion the pri­mary treat­ment for hu­man cases is in­ten­sive sup­port­ive care.

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