At least three people have died in Kerala in the past two weeks reportedly due to rare Nipah virus, following which the health department in the southern state has been put on high alert. However, this is not the first case of the virus outbreak in India.
According to information available on World Health Organisation (WHO), India has in the past documented human-to-human transmission of the rare Nipah virus. The global health body says that the virus causes severe disease in both humans and animals.
Here’s a look at all the information available with regard to the rare and deadly Nipah virus.
As per a report on WHO website, Nipah is a newly emerging virus, which gets transferred from animals to humans, and it causes severe disease in both animals as well as humans. The natural host of the virus are fruit bats of the “Pteropodidae Family, Pteropus genus”.
The virus first came to light in 1998 when a disease outbreak was reported from Kampung Sungai Nipah in Malaysia. As this suggests, the nomenclature of the disease also comes from the name of the place in Malaysia.
The WHO says that while pigs were the immediate host of the virus during the 1998 outbreak, there were no immediate hosts in subsequent outbreaks.
Another major outbreak was reported in 2004 in Bangladesh, wherein people acquired the virus by consuming date palm sap “that had been contaminated by infected fruit bats”.
"Nipah infection in humans has a range of clinical presentations, from asymptomatic infection to acute respiratory syndrome and fatal encephalitis. It is also capable of causing disease in pigs and other domestic animals," says the WHO report.
Unfortunately, there is no vaccine available for either humans or animals acquiring the rare virus. The primary treatment for human cases is intensive supportive care, says WHO.