Lucknow: Nipah virus is transmitted from animals to humans and can also be transmitted through contaminated food or directly between people. In infected people, it causes a range of illnesses from asymptomatic (subclinical) infection to acute respiratory illness and fatal encephalitis. The virus can also cause severe disease in animals such as pigs, resulting in significant economic losses for farmers.
Although Nipah virus has caused only a few known outbreaks in Asia, it infects a wide range of animals and causes severe disease and death in people, making it a public health concern.
There are currently no drugs or vaccines specific for Nipah virus infection although WHO has identified Nipah as a priority disease for the WHO Research and Development Blueprint. Intensive supportive care is recommended to treat severe respiratory and neurologic complications.
If an outbreak is suspected, the animal premises should be quarantined immediately. Culling of infected animals – with close supervision of burial or incineration of carcasses – may be necessary to reduce the risk of transmission to people. Restricting or banning the movement of animals from infected farms to other areas can reduce the spread of the disease.
As Nipah virus outbreaks have involved pigs and/or fruit bats, establishing an animal health/wildlife surveillance system, using a One Health approach, to detect Nipah cases is essential in providing early warning for veterinary and human public health authorities.
In subsequent outbreaks in Bangladesh and India, consumption of fruits or fruit products (such as raw date palm juice) contaminated with urine or saliva from infected fruit bats was the most likely source of infection.
There are currently no studies on viral persistence in bodily fluids or the environment including fruits.
Human-to-human transmission of Nipah virus has also been reported among family and care givers of infected patients.
Initial signs and symptoms of Nipah virus infection are nonspecific, and the diagnosis is often not suspected at the time of presentation. Nipah virus infection can be diagnosed with clinical history during the acute and convalescent phase of the disease.
The main tests used are real time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) from bodily fluids and antibody detection via enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA).