Nipah Virus: Signs, Symptoms and Diagnosis

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
May 23, 2018
Quick Bites

  • Around 10 people in Kerala have died due to Nipah virus (NiV)
  • NiV is a newly emerging zoonosis that causes severe diseases in both animals and humans
  •  It is a highly infectious disease that could lead to death in only a few days of being diagnosed

Around 10 people in Kerala have died due to Nipah virus. World Health Organization defines Nipah virus (NiV) infection as a newly emerging zoonosis that causes severe diseases in both animals and humans. 

NiV is on the rise and it is a deadly virus. It is a highly infectious disease that could lead to death in only a few days of being diagnosed. The virus was first identified in Kampung Sungai Nipah, Malaysia in 1998. It was spread by pigs. The outbreak infected 300 humans with over 100 deaths. 

The next outbreak happened in Bangladesh in 2004, when humans became infected by eating date palm sap – contaminated by infected fruit bats. Natural fruits bats are considered the natural host of the disease.  

How is it Transmitted?

The virus can be transmitted to humans after a direct contact with infected bats and pigs. It can also occur by eating the fruits bitten by either an infected pig or a bat. It can also spread through direct contact with an infected person. 

According to reports, the infection in India and Bangladesh is being linked to the consumption of date palm sap and contact with bats. It is transmissible and can be spread by an infected human to a healthy person.

What are the Symptoms?

NiV is believed to be associated with the inflammation of the brain.  After exposure and incubation period of 5 to 14 days, illness presents with 3 to 11 days of fever and other symptoms such as: 

  • A severe headache 
  • High fever 
  • Drowsiness
  • Disorientation 
  • Mental confusion 
  • These initial symptoms can progress to coma within 24-48 hours. During the initial stage of their infections, some patients suffer respiratory illness, and some show severe neurological signs
  • Long-term sequelae including personality changes and persistent convulsions 
  • Latent infections with subsequent reactivation of the virus 

Diagnosis

Diagnosis of the disease involves a combination of tests during the acute phase of the disease such as:

  • Real time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR)
  • Cerebral Spinal Fluid (CFS) Analysis 
  • Urine test 
  • Blood test 
  • Antibody detection by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA)

Treatment 

There is no vaccine as such to cure the disease. The only way to treat the infection is through intensive supportive care. 

Nipah virus infection can be prevented by avoiding direct contact with bats and sick pigs, especially endemic areas. Since drinking raw date palm sap bitten by a bat could cause NiV, do not drink it for a while. In fact, avoid eating all fruits that have fallen from the trees. There needs to be more awareness about the virus to avoid the infection from spreading.

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