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Pakistan on Alert: NIH Issues Nipah Virus Advisory


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In response to reported cases of the Nipah virus in South India, the National Institute of Health (NIH) has released a crucial advisory, following directives from the Federal Minister for Health. While no instances of the Nipah virus have been documented in Pakistan so far, the Ministry of Health spokesperson emphasizes that a low-risk advisory has been issued for the general public.

The Nipah virus is transmitted to humans through bats and pigs, and it has previously surfaced in countries like Bangladesh, Malaysia, Singapore, and India. Dr. Nadeem Jan, representing the Ministry of Health, affirms that the situation is under continuous monitoring, with instructions dispatched to the National Institute of Health and Border Health Services to take proactive measures.

Nipah virus poses a significant threat to both humans and animals, prompting a strengthening of the border health services system. The Ministry of Health is committed to enforcing the recommendations outlined in the International Health Regulations, focusing on safeguarding the public from potential diseases and epidemics.

Understanding the Nipah Virus: Origins, Treatment, and Impact

Origin of the Virus: The Nipah virus was initially identified in 1998 during an outbreak among pig farmers in Malaysia and Singapore. The virus has the ability to directly infect humans through contact with the bodily fluids of infected bats and pigs, with documented instances of human-to-human transmission. Scientists are concerned about the possibility of a mutated, highly transmissible strain emerging from bats, as it is believed to have existed among flying foxes for centuries.

Treatment and Prevention: Presently, there are no vaccines available to prevent or cure Nipah virus infection, which carries a mortality rate of approximately 70%. The standard approach to managing the infection is by providing supportive care. Initial symptoms include fever, respiratory distress, headaches, and vomiting. In severe cases, individuals may experience encephalitis, seizures, and even coma.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes Nipah as a pathogen with epidemic potential and places it on the research and development list.

Previous Outbreaks: The Nipah virus has been responsible for several outbreaks over the years. The initial 1998 outbreak in Malaysia and Singapore claimed over 100 lives and infected nearly 300 individuals. Subsequently, the virus has spread across vast distances, resulting in mortality rates ranging from 72% to 86% among those infected.

Between 1998 and 2015, WHO data recorded over 600 cases of Nipah virus infections in humans. Notable outbreaks include one in India in 2001 and two in Bangladesh, where 62 out of 91 infected individuals succumbed to the virus. In 2018, Kerala, India, faced an outbreak that claimed 21 lives, with additional incidents reported in 2019 and 2021.

A recent Reuters investigation in May highlighted parts of Kerala as among the most vulnerable areas globally to outbreaks of bat-related viruses, shedding light on the ongoing concerns surrounding this infectious disease.

As Pakistan remains vigilant and proactive in its response to the potential threat of the Nipah virus, public awareness and adherence to advisory measures become critical in preventing the spread of this deadly pathogen.

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