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Re-emergence of Nipah virus cases in Kerala sparks a wave of public health precautions

The resurgence of Nipah virus cases in the southern Indian state of Kerala has triggered a series of public health measures in the region. At the time of this report, six confirmed cases of the virus have emerged, resulting in two fatalities.

Nipah virus (NiV) is a zoonotic virus, meaning it can be transmitted from animals to humans. Scientific evidence has shown that fruit bats and pigs serve as hosts for the virus, which can lead to severe illness in both animals and humans. Nipah virus can progress into complications such as encephalitis, a potentially deadly brain infection, with a death rate of up to 75 percent among patients, as reported by the World Health Organization.

Individuals infected with Nipah virus typically experience sudden flu-like symptoms, including fever, headache, respiratory difficulties, convulsions, coughing, and vomiting. If the virus is not detected early, it can lead to further complications such as respiratory infections and atypical pneumonia. These symptoms can escalate rapidly, developing into coma and ultimately leading to death within 24 to 48 hours.

Currently, there is no cure or vaccine available for Nipah virus. However, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is intensifying its efforts to develop a potential vaccine.

Treatment options for Nipah virus are limited to providing symptomatic and supportive care to alleviate the signs and symptoms of the illness. In cases where complications, such as encephalitis, are observed, standard infection control practices must be implemented to limit transmission.

India has reached out to Australia for additional doses of monoclonal antibodies to treat cases of the viral disease. However, these monoclonal antibody doses have been tested for safety but not yet for efficacy.

Kerala is particularly vulnerable to the spread of Nipah virus due to its tropical climate, ongoing deforestation, and rapid urbanization. The state’s forests, which are prime bat habitats, have been increasingly cleared for human activities, disrupting bat habitats and creating conditions conducive to the spillover of bat-borne diseases to humans.

Preventing the spread of Nipah virus involves avoiding contact with stray animals, as the virus can be transmitted from bats and other animals. As a precaution, it is advisable to refrain from consuming Raw Date Palm Sap, which is known to be inhabited by bats.

Dr. Vivek Nangia, Chief of Pulmonology at Max Hospital in New Delhi, commended the state government of Kerala for their efforts in tracing contacts of infected individuals. However, he cautioned that the incubation period of the virus can range from 4 to 45 days, making vigilance crucial in controlling its spread.


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