Kerala’s Health Department has confirmed the presence of Nipah virus (NiV) in the state after nine people died and the death toll is on the rise as the virus spreads. While the virus spread is on rise, it is important to know what it actually is and ways to prevent yourself getting infected.

To begin with, Nipah virus (NiV) has caught attention after its spread in the state of Kerala and panic about Nipah Virus is knowing no bounds. To make it worse, the half-informed viral messages about Nipah on Whatsapp are causing misunderstanding and unnecessary chaos among people. While it is a serious and deadly virus, but with proper prevention methods and precautions, the spread of Nipah virus can be stopped without any panic. Taking precautions is necessary even if you don’t like in Kerala, especially after the Health Department of Kerala announced on Monday that the causes of recent nine deaths in Kozhikode due to high fever was because of Nipah virus.

To begin with, let us know what Nipah virus is – it is a zoonosis that can infect humans as well as animals. Fruit bats are the main natural carriers of the Nipah virus and it can be transmitted to humans upon consumption of food contaminated by saliva and urine of these bats. The virus can infect humans as well as domestic animals like pigs, chicken and more as well. It takes about 5 to 14 days of being exposed to the virus to show symptoms like fever and headache. As the virus infects the immune system – drowsiness, disorientation and mental confusion can be caused – which can lead to coma within 24-48 hours and can lead to death. Nipah can only be treated under extensive care and there is no vaccination available for this virus – hence, prevention is the best way out.

Reports from Kerala suggests that the infection has spread in the state due to consumption of mangoes that were bitten by fruit bats. So here are the precautions that can be taken:

  • Avoid consumption of date palm sap as it has highest chances of being contaminated by fruit bats as they reside on date palm trees and lick the saps.
  • Avoid climbing on fruit trees where bats may have left their saliva and urine.
  • Do not eat fruits that are bitten or half eaten.
  • Washing fruits and dates thoroughly before consumption is highly recommended.
  • Try to keep your pets and domestic animals indoors and feed them yourself to keep them from being infected.
  • Do not share food, bed or be very close to a sneezing or coughing NiV patient.
  • Abstain from coming in contact with the saliva of an infected person or animal.
  • Be cautious if you are sharing a washroom with an infected person.

The good news is that WHO is developing the vaccine for NiV – which has already proved successful among cats, is almost preventing infection among pigs and also has the potential to protect humans soon. Until then, stay safe.