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After the out break of Ebola, now the world, especially India, is being terrorised by the emergence of another deadly virus, originated from the animal world. After it was first detected in Malaysia in a place called Nipah, ( named after its origin) where hundreds died mysteriously, in 1998, the origin of the virus was traced to pigs. There after, Nipah struck in Bangladesh in 2001 killing hundreds of victims.
However, in 2001 Nipah made its first appearance in Siliguri town , in the plains of North Bengal. It started as a mysterious fever taking away scores of lives, triggering panic. Laboratory investigations those days, couldn’t identify the infectious agent and doctors named it “Siliguri Fever”.One year later it would strike another West Bengal District, Nadia. The Siliguri fever claimed 49 deaths including the doctors and nurses who treated the patients. The panic created an exodus from Siliguri. 25% of the population fled in fear. It was not until 2006, that it was identified as Nipah virus. To decipher the disease a team of epidemiologists and virologists were summoned from National Institute of Virology, Pune and World Health Organisation.
In May 2018, the deadly virus revisited India, this time in Malappuram and Kozhikode districts, Kerala, spreading terror and utter panic.
Known facts about Nipah
Though the source of the Nipah virus was thought to be Mosquitoes in Malaysia, later it was tracked down to pigs, a popular domestic animal in Malaysia.There after lacs of pigs were culled in the country and soon, the virus bowed down. However this time, in Kerala the source of the virus was detected to be ‘Fruit Bats’ and later infected humans become the carriers of contamination. In the subsequent investigations,, few broiler chicken brought from Tamil Nadu, also were found to be infected by Nipah virus.
Symptoms and Treatment
The virus create severe fever and head ache which may last from 3 days to 14 days. The fever will be followed by periodical drowsiness, disorientation and mental confusion. The symptoms of Acute encephalitis may mislead the best of medical specialists. Soon the patient slips into a coma in 24-48 hours and may never wake up.
Effective preventive drugs or drugs to fight the virus,are yet to be invented. Presently treatment is symptomatic and supportive. Severely ill individuals need to be hospitalised and may require intensive care. The Nipah virus play havoc with the immunity system of the victim and contaminate fast to other human beings. Hence strict quarantine procedures are a must to contain the epidemic. Usually the doctors and nurses and medical supporting staff fall prey to the deadly virus.
Culling of the carrier animals and creatures/ birds, in the locality also, is an effective action to control the spread of the virus.
The aftermath of virus break out in Kerala
The tragic death of Nurse Lini Sajeesh after treating a Nipah patient in Puthussery , on 21 May had shaken the conscious of all Keralites. Lini just before dying wrote to her husband to take care of their son and embraced death as a brave warrior. The state went into an overdrive and high alert mode. The streets and schools and the entire towns of the affected localities of Kozhikode district, remained deserted for weeks after the break out of the virus.
As per WHO reports Nipah has a fatality rate of 70%. However, in Kerala with 16 confirmed victims out of 18 reported cases of Nipah, the mortality rate went up to 88.8 %.
However, with the dedicated and self-less service of the entire medical community, Kerala may be over the hump. As on 09 Jun, all the other 291 samples tested for Nipah had turned out negative. The no of suspected cases, hovering around two dozen last week, was down to 10 by this week.
The Nipah virus succumbed to submission by the meticulous battle launched by the Kerala Health Department. After a detailed survey, 2400 people who were suspected to be exposed to the Nipah patients, were identified and all arrangements were made to strictly quarantine them for 21 days. A Nipah Cell was established and it calls up those who are being monitored twice a day. A 24X7 helpline in Kozhikode offers all kinds of advice to general public.
Kerala government announced medical reimbursement of all medical bills of all Nipah patients. The families of these patients were given free ration kits.
Dr Arun Kumar from the Virology Lab in Manipal says-” the major challenge is identifying the Nipah virus and the Lab was ready to do the tests with the collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, USA.”
Kerala tourism industry is severely hit by the government travel advisory to avoid Kozhikode and nearby hill station Wayanad.Let us hope that the worst fears about this deadly virus are put to rest, and this horrible chapter is over now for Kerala.