Tuesday June 25, 2019

All about Nipah Virus: How is it Different from Swine Flu and Bird Flu?

The human Nipah virus (NiV) infection is a zoonotic disease which was first recognised in a large outbreak

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Nipah Virus, Swine Flu, Bird Flu
The basic difference between the Nipah virus and swine flu is that for swine flu drugs and vaccines are available whereas for Nipah there is no treatment or anti viral medication. Pixabay

With the return of the Nipah infection in Kerala, the need for awareness about zoonotic diseases has increased, especially in view of the spread of misinformation about these diseases.

Doctors say that the symptoms of Nipah infection, swine flu and bird flu are similar, but there are also differences in how the diseases impact people and also in their treatment.

“The basic difference between the Nipah virus and swine flu is that for swine flu drugs and vaccines are available whereas for Nipah there is no treatment or anti viral medication,” Manoj Sharma, Senior Consultant, Internal Medicine, Fortis Escorts Heart Institute in New Delhi told IANS.

According to the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, the human Nipah virus (NiV) infection is a zoonotic disease which was first recognised in a large outbreak of 276 reported cases in Malaysia and Singapore from September 1998 to May 1999.

Nipah Virus, Swine Flu, Bird Flu
With the return of the Nipah infection in Kerala, the need for awareness about zoonotic diseases has increased. Wikimedia Commons

In India, during 2001 and 2007 two outbreaks in humans were reported from West Bengal. But in 2018 and 2019, it has affected mainly Kerala.

“The symptoms of Nipah infection are like flu symptoms — cough, fever, headache, bodyache, cold and then breathlessness later on,” said M S Chaudhary, Senior Consultant, Internal medicine, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi.

“Usually it is the bats which spread Nipah virus. Either one eats bat-infected food, or has close contact with an infected person. So the paramedical staff, very close relatives and all are at risk of contracting the virus,” Chaudhary added.

While Nipah is classified as a ‘zoonotic’ disease – those that spread from animals to humans — once a human is infected then it is contagious for other people, said Sharma, adding that Nipah virus can also infect pigs.

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The Nipah virus affects the respiratory and nervous system and patients may experience respiratory failure or neurological failure. But swine flu usually does not lead to neurological problems, Chaudhary said.

Swine flu was pandemic in 2009 worldwide. Since then there have been sporadic occurrences. So swine flu can spread to any region.

“It can spread from human to human. It is also seen in pigs. It is a variant of pig influenza virus,” Sharma said.

“Symptoms of bird flu are also similar. Bird flu also spreads by infected birds which infect the food and the infection is passed onto humans. There are not too many regions affected by bird flu virus,” Chaudhary said.

Nipah Virus, Swine Flu, Bird Flu
Doctors say that the symptoms of Nipah infection, swine flu and bird flu are similar, but there are also differences in how the diseases impact people and also in their treatment. Pixabay

“The basic thing is to avoid catching the infection. Hand washing and drying of hands is the key to ensure that the infection does not spread,” Sharma added.

In the current Nipah outbreak, a Kerala youth has tested positive for the virus, while three nurses who treated him, a friend and another person have been kept in isolation.

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A total of 311 people from Thrissur, Paravur in Ernakulam district, and Thodupuzha in Idukki are also under observation, according to Kerala Health Minister K.K. Shailaja. (IANS)

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UAE Expats Worry Over Resurfacing of Nipah Virus in Kerala

A total of 311 people from Thrissur, Paravur in Ernakulam district, and Thodupuzha in Idukki were also under observation

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UAE, Expats, Nipah Virus, Kerala
A fruit and vegetable vendor in the UAE, on the other hand, decided to stop importing produce from Kerala until the scare subsides. VOA

UAE-based Malayalis have expressed concern for their loved ones back home, as a Kerala youth tested positive for the Nipah virus, leading to a number of traders and travellers taking precautionary measures, the media reported.

Besides a Kerala youth being treated for testing positive for the Nipah virus (NiV), state Health Minister K.K. Shailaja on Wednesday revealed that three nurses who treated him, a friend and another person have been kept in isolation.

A total of 311 people from Thrissur, Paravur in Ernakulam district, and Thodupuzha in Idukki were also under observation.

Sharjah resident Sridevi Rajendran, who is from the same town as the infected victim, told the Khaleej Times: “He was in the same school as my son. We are very worried about the situation back home, and my son is there as well. Since there is no clarity as to where the virus has originated, people are generally tensed.”

UAE, Expats, Nipah Virus, Kerala
UAE-based Malayalis have expressed concern for their loved ones back home. Wikimedia Commons

The Nipah virus is transmitted from animals to humans; through contaminated food; or directly between people. It infects a wide range of animals and causes severe disease and death in people, making it a public health concern, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

In 2018, a Nipah scare resulted in a temporary ban on Kerala fruits and vegetables in the United Arab Emirates, and a travel advisory to the South Indian state was also issued.

A fruit and vegetable vendor in the UAE, on the other hand, decided to stop importing produce from Kerala until the scare subsides. However, no official ban has been implemented yet.

“We have temporarily stopped the import of fruits and vegetables from Kerala, which make up 25 per cent of our total produce,” said PC Kabeer, founder and CEO of FarmChimp, a company that sells source-traceable produce.

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Kerala-bound travellers told the Khaleej Times that their trips would go as planned, but they would be taking “extra precaution”.

Marketing professional Anand Rajiv, who is flying to Kochi, said: “As long as I am not having local water or food from outside, I should be okay. Of course, I am worried about my health as it is not a joke.” (IANS)