Nipah Virus

The Kerala health department has issued a health alert in Kozhikode after two individuals died under “unnatural” circumstances, and Nipah virus (NiV) infection is suspected. NiV is a zoonotic illness transmitted from animals to humans, with bats being natural reservoir hosts. It belongs to the Paramyxoviridae family and is related to the Hendra virus. First appearing in Malaysia and Singapore in 1998-1999, it affects various domestic animals. Human infection results in encephalitis with symptoms like fever, headache, confusion, and potentially fatal outcomes. Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment available for the Nipah virus.

Facts/Terms for UPSC Prelims

  • Zoonotic Illness: A disease that can be transmitted from animals to humans. In the case of Nipah virus, it is zoonotic as it originated in animals and can infect people.
  • RNA (Ribonucleic Acid) Virus: A type of virus that carries its genetic information in the form of RNA. Nipah virus is an RNA virus, which is characteristic of certain viral families like Paramyxoviridae.
  • Paramyxoviridae Family: A family of viruses to which Nipah virus belongs. These viruses typically cause respiratory or systemic infections in animals and humans.
  • Encephalitic Syndrome: A medical condition characterized by inflammation of the brain, leading to symptoms such as fever, headache, mental confusion, and even coma. Nipah virus infection often presents as encephalitis.
  • Reservoir Hosts: In the context of Nipah virus, bats, particularly fruit bats or ‘flying foxes,’ serve as natural reservoir hosts. Reservoir hosts carry the virus without getting sick and can transmit it to other animals or humans.

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