Tuesday November 12, 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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The studies have contributed to more accurate figures of drug use globally. 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)

Next Story

Researchers Develop Model Using Machine Learning to Identify Bat Species that can Spread Nipah Virus

Once infected, people can spread the virus directly to other people, sparking an outbreak. There is no vaccine and the virus has a high mortality rate

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For the study, Machine Learning, a form of Artificial Intelligence, was used to flag bat species with the potential to harbour Nipah. Wikimedia Commons

Researchers have developed a model using Machine Learning (ML) to identify bat species with the potential to host the Nipah virus, with a focus on India. Four new bat species were flagged as surveillance priorities.

“While there is a growing understanding that bats play a role in the transmission of Nipah virus in Southeast Asia, less is known about which species pose the most risk. “Our goal was to help pinpoint additional species with a high likelihood of carrying Nipah, to target surveillance and protect public health,” said Barbara Han from Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in the US.

India is home to an estimated 113 bat species. Just 31 of these species have been sampled for the Nipah virus, and 11 have been found to have antibodies that signal host potential, according to the study published in the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

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For the study, the research team compiled published data on bat species known to carry Nipah and other henipaviruses globally. Wikimedia Commons

The Nipah virus is a highly lethal, emerging henipavirus that can be transmitted to people from the body fluids of infected bats. Eating fruit or drinking date palm sap that has been contaminated by bats has been flagged as a transmission pathway. Domestic pigs are also bridging hosts that can infect people.

Once infected, people can spread the virus directly to other people, sparking an outbreak. There is no vaccine and the virus has a high mortality rate. For the study, Machine Learning, a form of Artificial Intelligence, was used to flag bat species with the potential to harbour Nipah.

“By looking at the traits of bat species known to carry Nipah globally, our model was able to make predictions about additional bat species residing in India with the potential to carry the virus and transmit it to people. These bats are currently not on the public health radar and are worthy of additional study,” Han said.

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Data included 48 traits of 523 bat species, including information on foraging methods, diet, migration behaviours, geographic ranges and reproduction. Pixabay

For the study, the research team compiled published data on bat species known to carry Nipah and other henipaviruses globally. Data included 48 traits of 523 bat species, including information on foraging methods, diet, migration behaviours, geographic ranges and reproduction.

During the study, their algorithm identified known Nipah-positive bat species with 83 per cent accuracy. It also identified six bat species that occur in Asia, Australia and Oceania that have traits that could make them competent hosts and should be prioritised for surveillance. Four of these species occur in India, two of which are found in Kerala.

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“We set out to make trait-based predictions of likely henipavirus reservoirs near Kerala. Our focus was narrow, but the model was successful in identifying Nipah hosts, demonstrating that this method could serve as a powerful tool in guiding surveillance for Nipah and other disease systems,” said Raina K. Plowright from Montana State University in the US.

“Identifying which species harbour disease is an important first step in surveillance planning. We also need to prioritise research on which virus strains pose the greatest risk to people. Ultimately, the goal is to extinguish risk, not fight fires,” Han concluded. (IANS)