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Nipah virus (NiV) is a zoonotic virus  . It is usually transmitted from animals to humans. However, it can also be transmitted through contaminated food or directly between people. People who suffer from this infection can suffer from a range of illnesses, such as asymptomatic infection, acute respiratory illness and fatal encephalitis  . This virus also causes severe diseases in animals such as pigs (causing enormous economic losses for farmers). The best way to prevent this illness is by avoiding exposure to sick pigs and bats in endemic areas.
After the outbreak of Nipah virus in 1999, among pig farmers in Malaysia, routine and thorough cleansing and disinfection of pig farms with appropriate detergents are being considered an effective mechanism for preventing this infection  .
With confirmed reports of NiV outbreak in Kerala again, it is worth knowing the following preventive steps and measures that can help you stay away from this deadly virus that is becoming a major health concern among all. Read on to know more about what you can do to stay safe during this time.
Prevention Of Nipah Virus Infection
1. When an outbreak is suspected, the animal premises need to be quarantined immediately.
2. Culling of infected animals  becomes necessary to reduce the risk of transmission to people.
3. Restrict the movement of animals from infected farms to other areas.
4. Establishment of an animal health surveillance system  .
5. Use of reliable tools such as laboratory assays for early detection of the disease is important for reinforcing standard infection control practices  .
Awareness programs should be developed to educate people about the measures that they can take to reduce their exposure to this virus. The educational messages should focus on the following:
1. Reducing the risk of bat-to-human transmission: The prime focus should be on decreasing bat access to date palm sap and other fresh food products  .
- Use protective coverings to keep bats away from sap collection sites.
- Boil freshly collected date palm juice before use.
- Thoroughly wash and peel all fruits before consumption. It has been proven that this virus cannot survive when the pH is alkaline (around 7).
- Fruits that have signs of bat bites should be discarded.
- Nipah virus cannot survive when the temperature is below 22 degrees celsius and above 37 degrees celsius. Hence, food consumed at this temperature should be free of the virus.
2. Reducing the risk of animal-to-human transmission: The following steps should be considered to prevent humans from catching the disease from animals  :
- Wear gloves and other protective clothing when handling sick animals or their tissues (during slaughtering and culling procedures).
- Avoid being in contact with infected pigs.
- Protect pig feed and pig shed against bats.
- Unprotected and close contact with infected people should be avoided.
- Wash your hands with soap regularly when caring for or visiting sick people.
4. Controlling infection in health-care settings: Health-care workers caring for infected patients hold a high chance of contracting this infection  . One should remember the following:
- Apart from standard precaution, it is also important to make note of contact and droplet precautions.
- In certain circumstances, airborne precautions might also be required.
- The sample obtained from infected people or animals should only be handled by trained staff and under suitable laboratory settings.
On A Final Note...
As there is no vaccination for this illness, the treatment methodology is limited to intensive supportive care. This means treating the symptoms individually. For instance, someone complaining of breathlessness can be put on artificial ventilators.
Moreover, WHO has taken a good initiative of providing technical guidance on how to manage outbreaks of Nipah virus infection and its prevention, especially for the at-risk countries
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