The Kerala Health Department has initiated precautionary measures to deal with the possible outbreak of Nipah virus.
The Kerala Health Department has initiated precautionary measures to deal with the possible outbreak of Nipah virus.(Photo: iStockphoto)
  • 1. What is Nipah Virus?
  • 2. What Are the Nipah Virus Symptoms?
  • 3. Why Has Nipah Virus Emerged?
  • 4. How Do We Keep Ourselves Safe
Explainer: What is Nipah Virus? How Can You Keep Yourself Safe

After much speculation, the Kerala government has confirmed Nipah virus in the 23-year-old man who had been admitted to a private hospital in Ernakulam on May 30, says the Kerala government. The confirmation came in from the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune.

The Kerala government has asked people not to panic and stay alert.

  • 1. What is Nipah Virus?

    According to the World Health Organisation, Nipah virus or NiV infection is a newly emerging infectious disease that causes severe illness in both animals and humans. The natural host of the Nipah virus are fruit bats of the Pteropodidae Family, Pteropus genus.

    Nipah virus is fairly new. The virus was first identified in 1998 in Malaysia and pigs were identified as the intermediate host. It spread to humans after they came in contact with pig feces and excretions. Nipah virus gets it’s name from the village where the virus was first spotted. The virus has also been found in species of domestic animals including dogs, cats, goats, horses and sheep after they came in contact with pigs.

    Speaking to FIT earlier, Prof Ramanan Laxminarayan of Centre for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy had said,

    Bats and humans share a lot of common diseases. And another species that shares a lot of common diseases with humans is pigs. In the first instance, the disease traveled from bats to pigs and pigs became the intermediate source carrying the disease to us.  

    Later Nipah virus had showed up in Bangladesh in 2004, where humans became infected with NiV as a result of consuming date palm sap that had been contaminated by infected fruit bats.

    There have been cases of human-to-human transmission in hospital settings including in India. The Nipah virus was first reported in India’s Siliguri district in 2001. Of the 66 cases, 45 people lost their lives.  

    During the outbreak, 33 health workers and hospital visitors had become ill after exposure to patients. If there is any silver lining at all, it’s that human-to-human transmission weakens after a while.

    While there have been cases of human to human transmission, the outbreak is usually not sustained for a long time. So the epidemic will die out. But I won’t be surprised if it pops up in other parts of Kerala because the host fruit bats are everywhere.
    Prof Ramanan Laxminarayan

    Before the 2018 outbreak in Kerala, Nipah virus or NiV had infected 477 people and killed 252.

    Also Read : Nipah Suspected in Kerala: Govt Urges People To Stay Alert


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