The Nipah virus (NiV) is zoonotic, meaning it can be transmitted from animals to humans. It can also spread through contaminated food or directly between people. Recently, a 12-year-old boy in India died from the virus. This was shocking news as the southern Indian state of Kerala beat the Nipah virus in 2018. Now, doctors and researchers have to make more effort to prevent the spread of Nipah and try to understand it more.
While Nipah is a significant concern in India, it could affect the rest of the world. The virus is not as transmissible as others. But each time a person becomes infected, the virus finds a new environment that suits them for human adaptation and transmissibility. The risk of an outbreak grows since new strains can emerge and transmit from person-to-person.
In the first known outbreak in Malaysia and Singapore, direct contact with sick pigs or their contaminated tissues led to people developing Nipah. In later instances in Bangladesh and India, consumption of contaminated fruits or fruit products (such as raw date palm juice) was the cause. These products were tainted by urine or saliva from infected fruit bats. Due to the various forms of transmission and difficulty establishing how some people contract the virus, Nipah is still a mysterious virus.
Infection of the Nipah virus can cause mild to severe symptoms. Swelling of the brain (encephalitis) and even death are risks associated with the disease. Symptoms usually appear in 4 to 14 days following exposure to the virus.
General symptoms include:
- Sore Throat
- Difficulty breathing
Severe symptoms include:
- Disorientation, drowsiness, or confusion
- Brain swelling (encephalitis)
It is possible to recover, but the fatality rates for the virus are very high. Doctors have noted that with Nipah, once symptoms set in, you start spreading the virus. It differs from COVID, in which you are most infectious before the signs begin. Your ability to infect other people wanes as you develop the symptoms. Since the virus is spread human-to-human through bodily fluids, it is best to follow similar protocols as with COVID-19. Physically distance yourself and wear a mask in risk zones.
Treatment & Prevention
There are no specific drugs or vaccines available for the Nipah virus. If you contract Nipah, the best route to take is undergoing intensive support care. This is especially recommended to treat severe respiratory and neurologic complications.
As for prevention, thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting pig farms and other livestock areas can prevent infection. If an outbreak is ever detected, you should immediately quarantine the sick animals and the premises. Wear gloves and masks to protect yourself when handling materials, animals, or being around other people. Also, ensure that you are washing your hands regularly to limit the chances of exposure.
Planning a trip? Make sure you’re ready for Nipah or any other infection with Passport Health. Call or book online to schedule your appointment today.
Written for Passport Health by Shelbi Jackson. Shelbi is a freelance writer from Illinois. She enjoys writing about various topics from health care to music and book reviews. In her free time, you can find her at a live event, taking a stroll outside, or playing with the family dogs.