The Nipah virus, which can lead to severe brain damage and even death, has reemerged in the Kozhikode district of Kerala for the third time in five years. The state health department has issued a health alert following two “unnatural” deaths and four high-risk contact cases, one of which involves a 9-year-old boy on ventilator support. While medical care is being provided, and there has been significant improvement in the boy’s condition, pending test results from additional samples warrant continued vigilance, according to health experts.

Dr. Harish Chafle, a Consultant Intensivist and Chest Physician at Global Hospitals in Parel Mumbai, explained in an interview with HT Lifestyle that the Nipah virus is a zoonotic virus, meaning it can be transmitted from animals to humans. He noted that Nipah virus infection can manifest with a range of symptoms, including:

  1. Fever
  2. Headache
  3. Fatigue
  4. Muscle Pain
  5. Respiratory Distress
  6. Encephalitis (Inflammation of the Brain)

Dr. Harish Chafle emphasized that in severe cases, Nipah virus infection can progress to a coma within 24-48 hours and can be fatal. He cautioned against the primary risk factors and causes, which include:

  1. Animal Reservoirs: Fruit bats are considered the natural reservoir of the Nipah virus. Direct or indirect contact with these bats, their excretions, or saliva can lead to transmission to humans.
  2. Consumption of Contaminated Food: Ingesting fruits or juices contaminated with bat saliva or urine can result in infection.
  3. Human-to-Human Transmission: Once a person is infected, Nipah virus can also spread through close contact with infected individuals, especially in healthcare settings.

Dr. Harish Chafle further explained that as of his last update in September 2021, there is no specific antiviral treatment for Nipah virus infection. He stressed the importance of supportive care, which includes:

  • Isolation: Patients should be isolated to prevent further transmission.
  • Symptomatic Treatment: Managing fever, pain, and other symptoms can help improve the patient’s comfort.
  • Intensive Care: Severe cases may require intensive care, including mechanical ventilation for respiratory distress.
  • Experimental Treatments: While some experimental treatments and antiviral drugs have been explored, their effectiveness is not well-established.

In conclusion, Dr. Harish Chafle emphasized the importance of consulting healthcare experts and organizations for the latest information on Nipah virus, particularly regarding any developments in treatment or prevention strategies. For up-to-date information, he recommended reaching out to relevant health authorities, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), and local healthcare providers or institutions for expert guidance specific to one’s region.

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