Nipah is a virus from the family Paramyxoviridae and is responsible for Nipah disease. The pathogen can be transmitted by direct contact with the liquid or feces of infected bats or by personal contact.
This disease was first detected in 1999 in Malaysia, but has already been seen in other countries such as Singapore, India and Bangladesh, and leads to the onset of flu-like symptoms. Signs of the disease can progress rapidly and cause serious neurological complications that can be life-threatening.
Mortality from infection is 50%: researchers believe that if the virus develops into a more transmissible form, it could cause the next pandemic.
The main symptoms
In some cases, Nipah virus infection may be asymptomatic or cause mild flu-like symptoms that disappear after 3 to 14 days.
In the case of infections in which symptoms occur, these occur between 10 and 21 days after contact with the virus and are major;
- Muscle pain;
- Encephalitis, inflammation of the brain;
- Decreased mental function, which can progress to coma in 24 to 48 hours.
Symptoms of Nipah virus infection can develop rapidly and cause life-threatening complications such as seizures, personality disorders, respiratory failure, or fatal encephalitis that occur as a result of chronic inflammation of the brain and damage caused by the virus.
How the diagnosis is made
The diagnosis of Nipah virus infection should be made by an infectologist or general practitioner based on an initial assessment of the signs and symptoms presented. Special tests for virus isolation and serology may be prescribed to confirm the infection and thus initiate the most appropriate treatment.
In addition, the doctor may indicate the performance of imaging tests to assess the severity of the disease, so computed tomography or computed tomography is recommended.
How the treatment works
There is currently no specific treatment for Nipah virus infection. However, the doctor may prescribe supportive measures depending on the severity of the disease: rest, hydration, mechanical ventilation, or symptomatic treatment may be recommended.
Some in vitro studies are performed with the antiviral ribavirin, but there is no evidence that the drug works against this disease in humans. Animal monoclonal antibody studies are also being performed, but no definitive results are yet available. In addition, there is no vaccine to prevent this infection.
Because it is an emerging virus with the potential to become endemic, Nipah is on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) priority list to identify drugs that could be used to treat the disease and to develop preventative vaccines.
Prevention of Nipah infection
As there is still no effective treatment against Nipah virus and vaccine that could be used as a form of prevention, it is important to consider some measures to reduce the risk of infection and disease transmission, for example:
- Avoid contact with potentially infected animals, especially bats and pigs;
- Avoid eating potentially infected animals, especially if they are not cooked properly;
- Avoid contact with fluids and feces of animals and / or humans infected with Nipah virus;
- Hand hygiene after contact with animals;
- Wearing masks and / or gloves in contact with a person infected with Nipah virus.
In addition, washing hands with soap and water is essential to eliminate infectious agents that may be present in the hand and prevent disease transmission.
With information from the Tua Saúde portal.