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Explained: What is Nipah Virus, Behind the Death of a 12-year-old in Kerala

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A 12 year old boy has died of Nipah virus in Kozhikode district of Kerala, a National Institute of Virology (NIV) report has confirmed. This is the third incident of the deadly Nipah virus in the state of Kerala, the first outbreak in 2018 took 18 lives. The second case in 2019 was limited to one death.

The state health minister, Veena George said the boy had turned critical on Saturday night. The state has started the process of tracing and isolating the primary contacts of the child. A team of experts from the centre has also flown in to help the administration limit the damage.

What do we know about Nipah virus? How does it spread?

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What is Nipah Virus? 

A newly emerging zoonotic disease, Nipah virus or NiV infection can cause severe illness in both animals and humans. Nipah's natural hosts are fruit bats of the Pteropodidae Family, Pteropus genus.

Nipah virus is a new emerging disease that was first was first identified in Malaysia in 1998. At the time pigs were identified as the intermediate host. It spread to humans after they came in contact with pig feces. The virus has also been seen in many species of domestic animals like dogs, cats, goats, horses and sheep. The animals got the virus after they came in contact with infected pigs.

Nipah has a fatality rate between 40 to 75 percent, according to the World Health Organisation.

What are the symptoms of Nipah Virus? 

Symptoms of Nipah Virus can range from asymptomatic infection, acute respiratory infection (mild, severe), and fatal encephalitis. Infected people initially develop influenza-like symptoms of fever, headache, myalgia, vomiting and sore throat. This can be followed by dizziness, drowsiness, altered consciousness, and neurological signs that indicate acute encephalitis.

Some people can also experience atypical pneumonia and severe respiratory problems, including acute respiratory distress. Encephalitis and seizures occur in severe cases, progressing to coma within 24 to 48 hours.

How Do You Keep Yourself Safe from Nipah Virus? 

  • Since the Nipah virus can spread if you come in contact with infected animals or people, it is very important to maintain high levels of personal hygiene.

  • Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly and cover your mouth if you are in an infected area.

  • The primary carrier of this virus are fruit bats and they often drop half eaten fruits which might be consumed by other animals or humans and spread the infection. So it is advised that you avoid consuming pork or drinking date palm sap in the infected areas.

  • Avoid eating fruits in the infected areas till source of infection is identified.

  • Travellers should avoid visits to endemic areas until the disease is curtailed and in case of recent transit they should look out for symptoms like fever, headache and cough and will need to seek medical care immediately.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Nipah Virus   Nipah in Kerala 

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