Why is Nipah so deadly?
The World Health Organisation(WHO) has declared Ebola as a global health emergency. With a fatality rate of 75 percent, Nipah outbreak in India in the last two years created a similar scare in the country. Why should we be worried about the Nipah Virus? Isn’t it just a virus?
Let’s explore what Nipah virus is all about.
What is Nipah Virus?
Nipah virus (NiV) is a newly-emergent pathogen belonging to the genus Henipavirus in the family Paramyxoviridae ( a deadly combination of viruses). It is zoonotic(transmitted from animals to humans and vice versa) in nature. So far, no cure has been found, but intensive supportive care is known to be helpful.
Where was Nipah Virus first discovered?
Nipah was reported first in Malaysia in 1998. Back then, it was believed to be a disease concerned with animals, especially pigs. But in 1999, some pig farmers from Kampung Sungai Nipah area in Malaysia reported a peculiar respiratory disease in their animals. The outbreak among pigs killed over 100 people in a year. A group of scientists from the University of Malaysia found that it was a virus that was causing the ailment. They named it Nipah virus after the name of the town.
Why should we be worried?
- Research suggests, in recent times, zoonotic diseases like Ebola, SARS, and Nipah are on the rise (pandemic).
- These diseases are more likely to spread in biodiversity hotspots, i.e. areas where there is a variety in the species living in close proximity, especially in countries like India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, etc.
- Researchers suggest that such diseases are also likely to hit areas that have gone through recent landform changes. Kerala, for example, has recently lost a lot of its forest cover to mining and urban development.
- Nipah virus is airborne, although human to human transmission is not very common.
- We don’t, yet, have a cure for it.
How does it affect humans?
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms vary from headache, fever, drowsiness-all of which leads to mental confusion. These symptoms can further progress into a coma within 24 – 48 hours of the virus entering the body. Other symptoms include inflammation in the brain and respiratory illness that can be fatal.
What preventive measures can you take?
- Wash the fruits thoroughly and peel before you eat them
- Avoid eating any fruit that looks slightly bitten or eaten before
- Avoid any sort of contacts with the bats
- Educate yourself and create awareness about the risks involved
Charu, a feminist and an accidental writer, is yet to master the art of writing about herself. Always curious to learn new stuff, she ends up spending a lot of time unlearning the incorrect lessons. She enjoys all sorts of stories – real, fictional, new, old, hers and would love hearing yours too. Feel free to ping her at firstname.lastname@example.org to share anything that you think is worth sharing.