KATHMANDU, Sept 14: Experts have warned that Nepal is also at a high risk of the Nipah virus infection. According to Dr Sher Bahadur Pun, coordinator of Shukraraj Tropical and Infectious Diseases Hospital’s Research Branch, a species of the bat that spreads the Nipah virus is found in Nepal.
He said that this species of bat is found in the country from east to west. “Even in Keshar Mahal of the Kathmandu Valley, this species of bat is seen in abundance,” he said. The Nipah virus is transmitted from bats to boars and cattle and then to humans. The virus can also spread from person to person. The virus is found in the ‘Foot Bat Ja Theropus’ species of bats.
The virus is transmitted to humans when they eat fruits eaten by the bat without washing it properly. The virus is transmitted from an infected person's urine, saliva, sweat and blood as well. The people who are into pig and boar farming are at a higher risk of contracting the disease.
In Nepal, research on Nipah virus infection has been conducted for many years. According to the research done in 2019, the species of bat is found in Dang, Saptari, Sunsari, Morang, Jhapa, Kaski, Nawalparasi and other districts. “As these districts are the main breeding grounds for boars, bats can be found abundantly there. Thus, Nepal is at a high risk of this virus,” Pun said.
Recently, cases of the Nipah virus are increasing in India. “Since Nepali students move from Kerala to Nepal back and forth, there is a high risk of the virus spreading in Nepal,” he said. According to Dr Krishna Prasad Poudel, head of the Epidemiology and Epidemic Management Division and Spokesperson for the Ministry of Health and Population, all local bodies across the country have been instructed to be vigilant against the virus.
The symptoms of this viral infection include fever, cough, nausea, difficulty in breathing, and body aches. As there is no cure for the Nipah virus, it is treated according to the symptoms like other viral infections. However, some people are pushed into coma and then to the brink of death. The virus is considered to be risky as it is likely to kill 45 to 75 percent of those infected.
Also, there is no specific treatment for the Nipah virus and access to testing is not sufficient in Nepal. Thus, it is not possible to diagnose the disease in time.
According to Dr Poudel, the disease is tested only at the National Public Health Laboratory. There is no research on whether the disease was present in Nepal. Experts have advised everyone to be cautious as the risk is increasing.
To avoid this virus, one should eat only well-washed fruits, cooked vegetables and keep cattle sheds and farms clean. One should use gloves and masks while cutting and cooking meat. Similarly, one should drink boiled water, wash hands with soap and water, and use masks when outside. Infection by the Nipah virus is considered one of the 10 deadliest diseases in the world.