Nipah virus outbreak: A fact check of killer virus

It all started in the year 1998-99 when Nipah Virus caused an outbreak in a pig farm in Malaysia. The virus got its name from a place named Kampung Sungai Nipah. The pigs were infected with the virus which was then transmitted to the pig farmers. However, the pigs were only the intermediate hosts.

After Malaysia, the several cases were found in and around Singapore. Few workers were exposed to the pigs which were imported from the same Malaysian region infected with Nipah Virus. The virus is related to the infection in the pigs and coming in the direct contact with them.

In case of India, the said infection is closely related to the fruit bats and their consumption of raw date palm sap as a source of food. Similar was the scenario in Bangladesh in 2004. Fruit bats are the natural host of the virus. They can port the virus indefinitely without getting ill. These are the largest bats in the world also called as flying foxes.

What is Nipah Virus?

The state of Kerala is reporting 10 dead, two more confirmed infected and 40 quarantined of this infection. Kerala has been on high alert. National Institute of Virology, Pune, confirmed that Nipah Virus is the sole cause of these deaths. A mystery virus, which is yet to be understood by many. Let’s find out certain facts about this killer virus.

The Nipah virus belongs to the Henipavirus genus. Henipaviruses are naturally harbored by fruit bats and microbats of several species. It was first identified in fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family, which are also the natural hosts of the virus

  1. Nipah Virus (NiV) is a pathogen leading to a rare form of infection which can be transmitted to humans from infected animals.
  2. It is the cause of severe diseases in both animals and humans which can lead to death.
  3. The virus is not airborne. It needs touch to spread and can be transmitted from person to person.
  4. The death rate from the Nipah virus is estimated to be about 75%.
  5. There is no vaccine available for its effective treatment as of now. Only taking precautionary measures and supportive care is what all we can do.

Signs and Symptoms

It is a fact that the first symptom in an infected person may appear after 3 to 4 days. The incubation period may extend up to 14 days also. Early signs and symptoms are noted below;

  1. The first sign of the infection includes fever or a headache.
  2. It prolongs to encephalitis which is the inflammation of the brain.
  3. It further leads to symptoms of drowsiness, disorientation and mental confusion.
  4. Some are more likely to suffer respiratory problems as initial signs. Breathing problems are more usual in Nipa-case patients.
  5. Thus Nipah infected patients would show neurological, respiratory and pulmonary signs as well.
  6. These symptoms can progress into a coma as fast as in 24–48 hours. In a usual case, the above said symptoms can last up to 7 to 10 days.
  7. As per Centres for Disease control and prevention, long-term complication following Nipah virus infection may include persistent convulsions and personality changes.
  8. Latent infection with subsequent reactivation of Nipah virus and death have also been reported months and even years after exposure.


Prevention is better than cure !!

  • Avoid direct contact with infected person, animal, tissue, blood or body fluids.
  • One must avoid exposure to bats in endemic areas and sick pigs.
  • Avoiding consumption of raw date palm sap (toddy).
  • Try to avoid eating fruits contaminated by bat excrete or partially consumed by bats.
  • Do not use water from wells infested by bats should be avoided.
  • Medical workers need to wear comprehensive protective gear to avoid direct touch with the infected. Wearing gloves and masks is must in medical set up.

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