Madam, Nipah Virus (NiV) has drawn world’s attention after the recent epidemic in Kerala, India in May 2018 where seventeen people lost their lives in just one week. (1) The first outbreak of NiV encephalitis was reported in pigs as well as in humans in peninsular Malaysia during September 1998 to April 1999. Later, human cases of NiV encephalitis were also reported from Bangladesh and India. In 2001, the first outbreak of NiV encephalitis in Meherpur district of Bangladesh was reported.
In 2001 and 2007, India reported two outbreaks of NiV encephalitis in the eastern state of West Bengal in which fifty patients died out of seventy one cases reported. NiV encephalitis is emerging as a public health problem in the WHO South-East Asia Region. (2)NiV is the second member of the genus Henipavirus in the family Paramyxoviridae and is closely related to Hendra virus. The natural reservoir of this virus is pteropodid fruit bats. Moreover, contact with infected pigs, consumption of date palm sap or fruits contaminated by saliva, urine or excreta of fruit bats and also by contact between infected individual is the mode of transmission of NiV.(3)The patients presents initially with nonspecific symptoms of fever, headache, myalgia and sore throat. The more severe cases presented with seizures, focal neurological signs, drowsiness and deteriorating consciousness requiring ventilator support.
Autonomic disturbances and myoclonic jerks were also common features.(4)WHO presented some guidelines for the prevention of NiV . For instance, we should thoroughly wash and peel the fruit before consumption. Also, fruits with bat’s bites should be discarded immediately. Moreover, bats should be kept away from date palm collection sites and date palm sap must be boiled before drinking it.
While handling sick animals, one should wear gloves and other protective clothing. Lastly, close physical contact with NiV-infected people should be avoided by regular hand washing. (5) Currently, there are no drugs or vaccines specific for NiV infection. Antivirals like Ribavirin, biological agents, immunomodulators and intensive supportive care are required to treat the respiratory and neurological complications. Consequently, there is a need to emphasize One Health approach to strengthen animal health, identify new cases and to caution veterinary and human public health authorities.(1) Lastly, scientists and researchers should focus their research on the development of vaccines, medications and treatment of NiV infection.