Punjab health dept issues alert for possible spread of Nipah virus

Nipah virus (NiV)

ISLAMABAD: The threat of the onslaught of another dangerous virus called Nipah has started looming throughout Punjab including Lahore, it was learnt on Sunday.

In this regard, the Punjab Department of Health has issued a letter to all the provincial Chief Executive Officers (CEO) while issuing a high alert in view of the possible threat and spread of the Nipah virus (NiV) and guidelines were also issued in the post.

According to the post of the health department, NiV was declared as a dangerous virus, with a mortality rate of 74 percent.

NiV infection is an emerging zoonosis that causes severe disease in both animals and humans and is endemic in South-East Asia Region. NiV was initially isolated and identified in 1999 in Malaysia and Singapore during an outbreak of encephalitis and respiratory illness among pig farmers and people with close contact with pigs.

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In May 2018, confirmed cases of NiV infection including fatalities have been reported in the southern state of Kerala, India. As of 25 May 2018, a total of 36 cases including 11 confirmed deaths have been reported.

Infection with Nipah virus is associated with encephalitis. After exposure and an incubation period of 5 to 14 days, illness presents with 3-14 days of fever and headache, muscle pain, nausea and vomiting, followed by drowsiness, disorientation and mental confusion.

According to the WHO, Nipah virus infection in humans causes a range of clinical presentations, from asymptomatic infection (subclinical) to acute respiratory infection and fatal encephalitis.

The case fatality rate is estimated at 40% to 75%. This rate can vary by outbreak depending on local capabilities for epidemiological surveillance and clinical management.

Nipah virus can be transmitted to humans from animals (such as bats or pigs), or contaminated foods and can also be transmitted directly from human-to-human. Fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family are the natural host of Nipah virus.

There is no treatment or vaccine available for either people or animals. The primary treatment for humans is supportive care.

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