It was in 2001, when the first outbreak of Nipah virus infection happened in the country in Siliguri(north Bengal), which saw 66 cases with a 74% mortality rate.
75% of patients were either hospital staff or had visited one of the other patients in hospital, indicating person-to-person transmission.
One of the victim of the infection was a cardiologist Dr Ajit Maity, who contacted it while treating patients at a Nursing home in Siliguri.
A total of 49 people died during the epidemic.
“The fear of the illness spread so rapidly that time that people started leaving the town. The roads were deserted and even the hospital staff started to have the fear”.
Even the doctors didn’t knew what it was and fear gripped everyone.
The infection has flu like symptoms that worsen very rapidly. The symptoms start to appear within 3–14 days after exposure. Initial symptoms are fever, headache, drowsiness followed by disorientation and mental confusion. These symptoms can progress into coma as fast as in 24–48 hours. Encephalitis, inflammation of the brain, is the dreaded complication of Nipah virus infection. Breathing illness can also be present during the early part of the illness.
Doctors said that it was isolation of infected patients that helped them control the situation in weeks. Most of the deaths occurred among hospitalised patients, family of the patients, and medical staff of four hospitals in Siliguri town.
As there is no treatment available for it as of now, prevention is the best control. The infection can be prevented by avoiding exposure to bats in endemic areas and sick pigs. Drinking of raw palm sap (palm toddy) contaminated by bat excrete, eating of fruits partially consumed by bats and using water from wells infested by bats should be avoided.
Contact with the symptomatic person should be avoided and if any one gets the above mentioned symptoms, then immediate medical care should be accessed.
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