Health

Is Nipah back in Kerala because of deforestation?

According to the WHO, fruit bats have faced persistent hunger and stress due to human's developmental activities that have led to massive deforestation

 
Last Updated: Friday 07 June 2019

Nipah, a rare and deadly virus, is back in Kerala after killing the state’s 17 people in 2018. On June 4, 2019, the Kerala government confirmed that a young student was infected by Nipah.

The virus is an infectious disease spread by secretions of infected fruit bats. It can also spread to humans through contaminated fruit, infected animals, or through close contact with infected humans. Human infections range from symptomless infection to acute respiratory infection (mild, severe), and fatal brain inflammation.

As of now there is no vaccine for Nipah. The primary treatment for humans is supportive care. So far, Nipah has infected 477 people and killed 252 since 1998. The World Health organization (WHO) has identified Nipah as a priority disease for the WHO Research and Development Blueprint. 

Intensive supportive care is recommended to treat severe respiratory and neurologic complications. Fruit bats are the natural carriers of Nipah virus.

According to the WHO, fruit bats have faced persistent hunger and stress due to human's developmental activities that have led to massive deforestation. This has triggered a fast multiplication of Nipah viruses inside their bodies. Humans are exposed to it when they come in contact with the bodily fluids (saliva, excreta, etc) of such bats.

Culling the fruit bats is considered as one solution to control the spread of the virus. But experts warn that this can further increase the stress in bats which results in more secretion of Nipah virus.

The only way to reduce infection in people is by raising awareness of the risks and educating people about the measures they can take to reduce exposure to the virus. Viruses like Nipah are called zoonotic diseases transferred from animals to humans. There are over 50 such diseases in the world and many of them have surfaced owing to deforestation.

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