Nipah Virus Outbreak: While the Nipah virus first causes moderate symptoms including headaches, muscle pain, exhaustion, and nausea, as the illness worsens, it may eventually cause fatal symptoms.
Nipah Virus Outbreak of Kerala
Kerala has been taking all necessary precautions to prevent the spread of the virus as it has been on the rise. The virus, which has a high fatality rate but is less contagious, has so far claimed the lives of two people and infected at least five more.
According to the WHO, the Nipah virus may be deadly in 40 to 75 percent of cases. The term “Nipah” refers to a Malaysian village where the initial epidemic was reported in 1998–1999; the virus it causes has a high fatality rate.
While the Nipah virus first causes moderate symptoms including headache, muscle soreness, exhaustion, and nausea, when it begins to disrupt brain function, it may proceed to mental disorientation, seizures, and encephalitis.
What is the Nipah virus?
“The zoonotic virus known as the Nipah virus (NiV) can seriously ill people. Although it can transfer from person to person, it is typically passed from animals to people. According to Dr. Ajay Aggarwal, Director of Internal Medicine at Fortis Hospital Noida, the symptoms of Nipah virus infection can be minor to severe.
The Nipah virus was initially discovered in 1998 after a Malaysian outbreak. According to Dr. G. Sneha, Consultant – General Medicine, CARE Hospitals, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad, infection with the Nipah virus can cause severe respiratory sickness and encephalitis (brain inflammation).
Signs of the Nipah virus
The initial signs and symptoms of the Nipah virus are fever, headache, disorientation, myalgia, vomiting, and loose stools. This could develop into encephalitis and convulsions related to the brain. Respiratory involvement could also be the cause of respiratory failure.
“After recovery, Nipah infection has very high morbidity due to neurological and psychological consequences (depression, personality changes, deficiencies in attention, language, and/or visual memory). According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Nipah has a fatality rate of 40 to 75 percent and a very high mortality rate due to its widespread untraceability, claims Dr. Tayal.
Dr Ajay Agarwal shares Nipah virus’s symptoms in detail:
1. Fever: Nipah virus infection often starts with a high fever.
2. Headache: Headaches are a common early symptom.
3. Muscle pain: Muscle aches and pain may occur, similar to flu-like symptoms.
4. Fatigue: Profound weakness and fatigue can be present.
5. Nausea: Many individuals experience nausea, sometimes accompanied by vomiting.
6. Dizziness: Some people may feel dizzy or lightheaded.
7. Mental confusion: As the disease progresses, confusion and disorientation may develop.
8. Seizures: In severe cases, individuals may experience seizures due to neurological complications.
9. Respiratory symptoms: Respiratory distress, including difficulty breathing, can occur in severe cases.
10. Coma: In the most severe cases, individuals can slip into a coma.
Dr. G Sneha shares the following symptoms for the Nipah virus
Fever: Nipah virus infection often begins with a high fever, typically 3 to 14 days after exposure.
Headache: Severe headaches are common.
Dizziness: Patients may experience dizziness or disorientation.
Nausea and vomiting: Gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea and vomiting may occur.
Neck rigidity: Stiff neck and muscle pain can be early signs of the infection.
Mental confusion: As the disease progresses, patients may become disoriented and develop mental confusion.
Coma: In severe cases, Nipah virus infection can lead to a coma within 24-48 hours.
According to Dr. G. Sneha, supportive care is the cornerstone of treatment and there is no specific antiviral therapy for Nipah virus infection.
It could contain:
1. Hospitalisation: Infected people are frequently admitted to hospitals for proper medical attention and to stop the infection from spreading.
2. Supportive care: This entails administering intravenous fluids to keep hydrated, controlling discomfort, and, in extreme circumstances, mechanical ventilation to help with breathing.
3. Experimental Treatments: Although their efficacy is not well established, in some circumstances, experimental antiviral medications or therapies may be tried.
Dr. Tayal adds that although a few experimental drugs, such as ribavirin and favipiravir, have shown some promise, the focus of treatment is still predominantly symptomatic.
Dr. G. Sneha advises isolation and quarantine for Nipah virus patients. Things to keep in mind include:
1. Isolation and quarantine: To stop the spread of the infection, infected people should be quarantined. Close contacts should be watched and, if required, quarantined.
2. Infection prevention: To stop the virus from spreading, healthcare professionals and carers must adhere strictly to infection prevention procedures.
3. Preventative measures: In regions where the Nipah virus has been known to spread, precautions including avoiding sick animals, avoiding fruits tainted with bat saliva or urine, and maintaining excellent hygiene are crucial for protection.
4. Vaccines: Although research and vaccine development are ongoing, as of my most recent update in September 2021, there was no officially recognized vaccine for the Nipah virus.