PUNE: There is no red alert in Maharashtra for the Nipah virus. However, the State government has asked the Health Department to be on a high alert as a preventive measure.
Many people travel to Kerala during the holiday season. Hence precautions are advised to travellers as well as the medical fraternity. The State department has issued dos and don’ts. Citizens are asked not to eat fallen fruits or fruits half-eaten by birds as they might be carrying the virus. So far, 11 deaths have been reported in Kerala, said the State Health Department.
Cautioning against rumour-mongers, State Health Minister Dr Deepak Sawant said people should not panic.
“Symptoms should be monitored for the virus and proper care should be taken. Every government hospital will have an isolated ward to ensure that the Nipah virus patients are treated with care and the disease is not spreading,” said Sawant in Mumbai on Tuesday.
He said travel to the affected areas should be restricted as of now. “For the medical fraternity, it is advised they follow the global standards of precautions and keep patients in isolated rooms,” said Sawant.
Union Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Ashwini Kumar Choubey told Sakal Times that though there is no treatment for the virus, Ribavirin therapy has proved to be effective.
State Surveillance Officer Dr Pradeep Awate told Sakal Times that there is no need to panic. “It is an emerging disease. The virus has been seen in Kerala. The basic guideline is to not eat fruits that have fallen from trees or are half-eaten by birds. Bats are the primary carriers. This virus is not airborne. Hence, there is no need to panic. However, it can spread from an infected person to another. So care is advised,” said Dr Awate.
Dr Awate added that the rate of fatality ranges from 40 to 70 per cent. “The virus leads to brain fever. It has claimed 11 lives in the country so far. However, no such cases are seen in Maharashtra,” said Dr Awate. He said no checks have been put at railway stations, airports or inter-state bus stands to screen travellers coming from other states.
HOW NIPAH GETS TRANSMITTED
- Transmission: The disease spreads through fruit bats or ‘flying foxes’. The virus is present in bat urine and potentially, bat faeces, saliva and birthing fluids.
- Symptoms: Common symptoms are fever, headache, drowsiness, disorientation, mental confusion, coma and potential death. The primary treatment for humans is isolated intensive supportive care.
- Prevention: There is no vaccine available for the infection. Hence, preventive measures are of utmost importance. Farm animals should be prevented from eating fruit contaminated by bats. Consumption of contaminated date palm sap (toddy) should also be avoided. Physical barriers can be put in place in order to prevent bats from accessing and contaminating palm sap.