Bengaluru: The Department of Health and Family Welfare has issued a public alert for heightened vigilance in Karnataka due to reports of the Nipah virus in Kerala. The Nipah virus disease was first identified in 1998 and 1999 in domestic pigs in Malaysia and Singapore.
The virus strain was initially identified in Nipah village in Malaysia. Additionally, domesticated animals such as dogs, cats, goats, horses, and in certain instances, sheep, can also become infected.
The first reported cases of the disease surfaced in Siliguri village, West Bengal, in 2001, followed by reports in neighboring Bangladesh in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, and 2008. To date, a total of 477 confirmed cases have been documented in Malaysia, Singapore, Bangladesh, and India.
Out of these cases, there were 248 fatalities. In 2018, Kerala recorded 14 confirmed Nipah cases, resulting in 11 deaths. In 2021, a single case of Nipah virus disease was reported in Kerala. Along the same lines, there were four suspected cases of Nipah virus disease in 2023.
Nipah virus fever manifests with symptoms like fever, headache, vomiting, and dizziness, which can progress to unconsciousness as high fever affects the brain. Speech may become affected, leading to stuttering and disorientation. Without proper treatment, Nipah virus disease can be fatal. These symptoms typically appear within a range of 4 to 18 days after infection.
The Nipah virus is transmitted to other animals through direct contact with infected bats and by consuming fruits and vegetables contaminated by bat droppings. Among animals, it spreads through direct contact with the feces, urine, saliva, and blood of infected individuals. In the case of humans, transmission occurs when consuming fruits that have been bitten by infected bats or through direct contact with an infected person’s feces, urine, saliva, and blood.
Diagnosis Method: The confirmation of Nipah virus infection involves obtaining a throat fluid sample from an affected individual, which is then subjected to laboratory testing. Currently, this diagnostic test is conducted at the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune.
Preventive Measures: It is crucial not to disregard any form of fever and to promptly consult a doctor if symptoms of Nipah virus are present. Healthcare personnel attending to patients should prioritize personal hygiene, including the use of masks and gloves.
Furthermore, it is advised not to consume fruits that have been bitten by animals or birds, those that have fallen during rainstorms, or fruits that are sold pre-cut on the streets.
To ensure personal hygiene, individuals should wash their hands and feet thoroughly with soap. It’s important to refrain from rubbing the eyes and nose with unwashed hands. Avoid the consumption of raw dates and refrain from using untreated “dry fruits.” Additionally, do not use unprocessed “Fresh palm dates fruit juice.”
Personnel employed at pig rearing centers should receive suitable medical attention if they encounter injuries or infections. It’s essential to avoid direct contact with pigs that may be infected or diseased. Refrain from consuming food and beverages kept in areas with a high presence of bats. To ensure safe drinking water in bat-prone areas, purify well water and consider covering the wells with nets to prevent bats from entering.
There is a prior recommendation to implement rigorous monitoring and proactive survey initiatives in the border district due to its proximity to Kerala. Given that this viral fever spreads through direct contact, it is advisable to maintain distance from infected individuals and animals (including dogs, cats, goats, horses, and sometimes sheep). It is crucial for the public to remain calm, as there is no need for panic. District health and family welfare authorities have urged individuals to promptly seek treatment at the nearest government hospital if they experience any fever symptoms.