Bengaluru: The death of over 10 people in Kerala due to Nipah virus has put the entire nation on alert, especially the neighbouring southern states. Spread by fruit bats, the virus causes flu-like symptoms initially, and later on can even lead to brain damage.
It was in the year 1998 that Nipah was first identified in Malaysia, but in India the first case of Nipah virus was reported in 2001 in West Bengal, where over 100 people were killed.
It is a zoonotic virus (a virus transmitted to humans from animals). Initial symptoms among humans include fever, headaches, muscle pain, vomiting and sore throat, followed by dizziness, loss of consciousness, acute respiratory problem and neurological signs like acute encephalitis and seizures.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the rate of fatality is estimated to be around 40- 75 per cent. Those who survive the acute encephalitis are found to have long-term neurological consequences such as seizure disorder and personality changes. Meanwhile, a small number of people who recover subsequently relapse or develop delayed onset encephalitis.
Dr. NK Venkataramana, Founder and Chief Neurosurgeon, Brains Neuro Spine Centre, says: "The virus is usually present in fruit bats. When these bats are infected, all body secretion including the urine, saliva will contain the virus. The virus is then spread among other domestic animals. Humans contract the virus when they come in contact with the infected animals."
"This virus causes encephalitis, affects the brain and causes swelling of the brain, fits, headache, vomiting and leaves one unconscious," he added.
According to Dr Venkataramana, there is no specific cure for Nipah. "Using of mask, washing hands frequently, avoiding eating fruits bitten by birds and bats, especially raw fruits, can help in keeping the virus away," he says