Pay millions to be a doctor?: welcome to “ring on fire” #NEET


Being a doctor has become a disadvantage in itself, thanks to our media and celebrities projecting the saviors  in bad light. They are now seen as harbingers of death. Morale of doctors has been at rock bottom and community is devastated.  A society that believes more in fairy tales told by “Reel heroes” has turned prejudiced and preposterous towards “Real  heroes”.  The medical profession reeks of desperation and desolation with apathy from government, indifference from courts and silence of human right commission to salvage them from decrepit state. At the best, they have been reduced to punching bags and scape-goats for inept medical systems or cheap labour to industry.

Problems faced by doctors are not only innumerable but are also so exceedingly complex and diverse that they are difficult to be analysed. It is common to listen doctors discussing these problems whenever one of these crop up. If so many doctors feel so disgusted about the entire system that they do not encourage their children to take up this profession which until now was one of the coveted ones, there must be something going terribly wrong with the profession. The challenges in this profession are too many and difficult to analyse.
  1.     Medical courses are Comparatively lengthy and expansive study course and difficult training with slave like duties: that I have discussed in one of my previous article on “enslavement of doctors”.
  2. Uncertain future for aspiring doctors at time of training: Nowadays, doing just MBBS is not enough and it is important to specialize. Because of lesser seats in post graduation, poor regulation of medical education, uneven criteria, ultimately very few people get the branch and college of their choice. They have to just flow with system ultimately.
 3. Hostile environment for doctors to begin: Suddenly young, meritorious and bright children who came out of training find themselves working in a hostile environment, at the receiving end of public wrath, law, media for reasons they can’t fathom. They face continuous negative publicity, poor infrastructure and prejudiced  beliefs of society.

  1. Difficult start of career of doctors: After a difficult time at medical college, an unsettled family life and with no money, these brilliant doctors begin their struggle. Even before they start earning a penny, the society already has its preconceived notions because of negative media publicity and half treats them as cheats and dishonest. Their work is seen with suspicion and often criticized.
    5.The fear and anxiety about the actual treatment,  favorable and unfavorable prognosis of patient, keeps mind of a doctor occupied.
    6. Doctors are blamed for all malaise:The society gets biased because of the media reports and some celebrity talking glib without proper understanding of inept medical system , administrative failure and complexity of medical industry.  These lead to formation of generalized sentiment against all doctors and are then unfortunately blamed for all the malaise in the entire healthcare system.
    7.Doctor’s personal and family life suffers: Large number of patients with lesser number of doctors is a cause of difficult working circumstances, and the frequent odd hour duties have a very negative impact on the family and personal life of the doctor.
    8.Risk to doctor himself:     Repeated exposure to infected patients in addition to long work hours without proper meals make them prone to certain health hazards, like infections which commonly include tuberculosis and other bacterial and viral illnesses. Radiologists and interventionists get radiation exposure. Because of difficult working conditions, some doctors are prone to depression, anxiety and may start on substance abuse.  21 risks to doctor and nurses
    9.Unrealistic expectations of society: Every patient is not salvageable but commonly the relatives do not accept this reality. Pressure is mounted on doctor to do more while alleging that he is not working properly. Allegations of incompetency and negligence are quite common in such circumstances. These painful discussions can go to any extent and a single such relative  is enough to spoil the mood for the day.

10.Retrospective analysis of doctor’s every action continues all the life-It could be by patients and relatives every day in the form of “ Why this was not done before” ? Everyday irritating discussions, arguments, complaints, disagreements add to further pain and discontentment, in case the patient is not improving. Or it could be by courts and so many regulatory bodies. Unfortunately, if there is a lawsuit against a doctor, he will be wasting all his time with lawyers and courts, which will takes years to sort out.
In these court cases, the doctor is at disadvantage since his decision which is now being questioned was taken at that time in good faith using all his wisdom. The decision in retrospect may not turn out to be the best one, but later retrospective analysis along with wisdom of hindsight over many years, may label it as faulty if a fault-finding approach is used. This along with general sentiment and sympathy with sufferer makes medical profession a sitting duck for punishments and lawsuits. Even if the doctor is proved to be not guilty, his harassment and tarnishing of reputation will be full and almost permanent. No doctor has time to pursue such things all the time. Even if such events don’t happen to everyone, the very fear of such possible scenarios and their possible complications always lurks in the back of their mind.
11. Physical assault , routine instances of verbal abuse and threat  happen for no fault of theirs. Many become punching bags for the inept medical system and invisible medical industry. The threat of physical assault is quite real as well. Recently, even female doctors have not been spared by mobs. Silence of prominent social people, celebrities and society icons on this issue is a pointer towards increasingly uncivilized mindset of society.  Even female doctors  are being assaulted.
12. Medical industry may be rich but not the doctors: The belief that doctor’s is a rich community, is not correct. Although decent or average earnings may be there, but earnings of most doctors is still not commiserate with their hard work viz-a-viz other professions. Doctors who also work like investor, a manager or collaborate with industry may be richer. But definitely most of doctors who are just doing medical care are not really rich.
13. Windfall profits for lawyers and law industry at the cost of doctors is a disadvantage for medical profession: I have seen zero fee and fixed commission ads on television by lawyers in health systems in certain developed countries. They lure patients to file law suits and promise them hefty reimbursements. There is no dearth of such relatives, lawyers who are ready to try their luck, sometimes in vengeance and sometimes for lure of money received in compensations. This encouragement and instigation of lawsuit against doctors is a major disadvantage for medical profession.

14.Overall, a complex scenario for doctors: There is increasing discontentment among doctors because of this complex and punishing system. They are bound by so many factors that they finally end up at the receiving end all the time. They are under Hippocratic oath and therefore expected to work with very high morality, goodwill and kindness for the sufferings of mankind and dying patients. They are also supposed to maintain meticulous documentation and also supposed to work under norms of medical industry. They are supposed to see disproportionately large number of patients with fewer staff and nursing support while still giving excellent care in these circumstances. And if these were not enough, the fear of courts and medico-legal cases, verbal threats, abuses, and physical assaults and show of distrust by patient and relatives further makes working difficult. Additionally there may be bullying by certain administrative systems at places, who use pressure tactics to get their own way.

With so many adversaries, the situation is like sailing a small boat in a tornado.
At present, with this mind-set, the losers are the doctors and medical profession. But the society should be able to foresee its overall loss in the long run if these practices continue.

 

Silence of  REEL Heroes: #Aamir-Khan, when REAL Heroes  #doctor/nurses are thrashed #NRS-Hospital


                    When  examples of stray incidents were portrayed as general phenomenon on television and a great mistrust was created, the existing gap further  widened between  doctor – patient, the REEL hero #Aamir-khan got a great applause. Society believed  and trusted  the stars, who entertained , enacted stories and danced to make them happy, keeping them entertained. Masses believed easily, what  Reel hero, while entertaining  told them and not trusted the doctor, who was awake at nights to save their  lives. REEL heroes earned name,  fame and money  by unilateral poor projection of doctors in filmy stories, right or wrong or just stray incidents. Larger good work and hard work of doctors was of no consideration. Sad  era for medical profession, where reel heroes, who merely act are trusted more than real doers. Now when doctors are being nearly killed, just because  for being on the bedside of patients, the silence of REEL Heroes,  proves the  hollow applause, they have generated for themselves.

 NRS hospital 

Reblogged: #Soldier/Nurse/doctor vs Filmy superstar: Reel Heroes or Real Heroes. what does the   society Need/desire/deserve?

The old adage  “All that glitters is not Gold” is particularly relevant  in current era of media domination where media  projection shapes the perception and may defy  the  reality.  Media has dominated our lives and can sway the  opinion formation of masses.  Written media, television, social media  can collectively influence the mass opinion.

Society, in general, needs to be wise  enough  to realize the importance   of  getting  rid of  these blinders in  real life . One such factor that causes an illusional mist in the  thoughts of masses is projection in films. They create a mirage of illusional glitter wherein  there is blurring of real life from the reel life of heroes. The larger-than-life unreal persona of the celebrities on screen looks too charming and sometimes becomes undeniable and dominates mind of masses. The super-human characters played out in films appear to be real. The problem arises when the imaginary characters of the reel life stories are emulated in real life. Individuals as projected character fill in  peoples’ imagination and are perceived as real and   becomes ingrained in mind. The naivety of masses to perceive the projected character as real one  goes beyond a reasonable thought process and imagination. 

These roles played in films are  not  really act of   inspiration  in real life  as  the actual purpose accomplished in the end of a movie  is entertainment of society and business for themselves. A recent  candid  admission  by the actor # Mr-Irrfan-Khan  that film stars should  not be role models  was impressive (Hindustan times) .

   At the best, a particular projected character  (and  not individual acting star) may be a  role model. An actor or super star, is simply doing his work of “acting” in  the end. This work of acting may bring an entertainment of few hours at the most.

One  cannot stray away from the wisdom to  choose between what we consume merely for our entertainment and  what we believe or face in real life. One needs to differentiate between rationale truth behind the celebrity gimmicks in the media and exaggerated sensationalism. Sensation created merely for a commercial successful venture should not be allowed to overpower the judgments of real life.

But the problem starts, when these false perceptions created merely   by a projected  glimmer    takes the shimmer  away from the real worthy. The real  professionals and people who are worthy of glory become invisible behind  the glittery mist, a haze, which is unreal and unhelpful in real life.

   A  soldier contributes to our society much more in real terms. Even a junior doctor saves many lives in a  day in emergencies as compared to work of a superstar in films.  A teacher, nurse or scientist have contribution which is more fruitful to our generation. Also the scientists, who contribute immensely and bring about the  real change in our lives. Their contribution is huge to our society and much more than doing just acting on screen. The reel actor merely imitates the real life lived and actual work done by real heroes like soldier, doctor or teacher. Someone who only acts and  behaves like one, is respected and paid thousand times or more than the real one. In reality, people need  more than mere entertainment and reel role models and actors in their real lives.

 

Compare the trivial  amount of  remuneration, fame  and respect the real worker  gets  as compared to the film stars, who merely imitate their actions. Reel projection for purpose  of entertainment is more easier to enact and more profitable  than actual performance  in real life.  It is easier to become a reel hero, as it requires little hard work or just connections to get an opportunity.  Some one can be a reel hero just  by  dynastic factor  easily. Hard work is definitely required but that may or may not be prerequisite.

 

Even good films  may raise some social problem, which everyone knows already and offer no practical solution in reality. Therefore what good it brings to the public, beyond entertainment, is any body’s guess. The persona, actors usually  project on screen, may actually be far from his or her real personality. In most of cases, what he does in movies and reel life, is actually away from  possibility of real life . But strangely in present era, people lose sight of what is mere perception. It is clearly a story, tale, a drama, a myth and is not the real identity of the people, we see on-screen.

 

 

In present era, real contributions by people, who are saviours of human life and  the real heroes, remain unappreciated. People are so besotted by  fame and money that they fail to appreciate the sacrifices made by real heroes. Filmy super hero  just imitates  a doctor, soldier,  dacoit or a street hooligan and just pretends to be one on the screen.

But there are  real life heroes that exist around us. Doctors awake at night saving lives every minute or soldier in freezing cold are worthy  of more respect and are real heroes.  And it is up to the society  to look beyond the superficial and reel story, and focus on the real life actors. There has to be an true effort to make, respect and appreciate  real heroes.

Point to  ponder  is that whether society needs people  just  acting  ke   doctors,  soldiers  and not the  actual and real ones, who saves lives. Does Society need  only  entertainment, because respect  which is paid to someone who is  just  an   actor, is  not extended to real doctors, soldiers or other altruistic professions.

 A reel hero who acts like a soldier, is famous  and richer and than the  actual soldier, who dies unnamed and in penury.   Children of today’s times will strive  to become, who is worshiped and paid respect  by society and  therefore will prefer  to become reel heroes.

 

A  society truly needs the real people, who work and act for them, more than just entertainment. It will need total change in attitude of people to deconstruct the perceptions, which are based on mere projections and are away from reality.

It is time to recreate and worship real heroes, who have become invisible behind the glittery mist.

Society needs to envisage the bigger real picture, and should not be mistaken for another projected story.                          

The perception of the projection will decide, what does the   society actually  need- or desire-or deserve , “Reel Heroes or Real Heroes”.

Working night shifts (#doctor&Nurses) may cause DNA damage, risk of cancer & Heart diseases


        Medical profession getting stressful is nothing new.  There are multiple dimensions to  the multi-pronged stress in present  era.  A new dimension has been discovered. Night shift are integral part of a hospital, doctors and nurses life. But it has shown to be having far reaching consequences. Night shifts have been linked to DNA damage and more serious illnesses.   If these kind of effects prove to be correct in future, it  needs a serious thinking over the issue.

    Researchers found that on-call doctors who were required to work overnight on-site had lower DNA repair gene expression and more DNA breaks than those who did not work overnight.

Working night shifts can damage a person’s DNA, increasing the risk of cancer as well as cardiovascular, metabolic, and neuro-degenerative diseases, a study has found. For the study published in the journal Anaesthesia, researchers analysed blood samples of 49 healthy full-time doctors taken at different times.

“Although this work is very preliminary, it is clear from the results that even a single night of sleep deprivation can trigger events that may contribute to the development of chronic disease,” said Siu-Wai Choi, of the University of Hong Kong.

Researchers found that on-call doctors who were required to work overnight on-site had lower DNA repair gene expression and more DNA breaks than those who did not work overnight. In these overnight on-site call doctors, DNA repair gene expression decreased and DNA breaks increased after sleep deprivation.

Damaged DNA increased after only one night of sleep deprivation. This DNA damage may help explain the increased risk for cancer and cardiovascular, metabolic, and neurodegenerative diseases associated with sleep deprivation, researchers said.

Millions of preventable disease deaths: whose moral burden is it?


Diseases can be  preventable or unpreventable, have  good  or  bad prognosis. But once patient  enters hospital,  what ever may be the reason or genesis of ailment, it becomes a moral responsibility of doctors.  Health care professionals  can be trash-talked   or ridiculed by media and anyone, even for worst prognostic cases.   But  large numbers of deaths   happen  due to preventable causes like accidents , drains, live electric wires, water contamination, dengue, malaria, recurring floods  etc. In fact the burden of   negligence here is massive and  these deaths are unpardonable.   Who ultimately carries the moral burden of millions of  preventable deaths?

Common causes of  such  disease, sufferings  and death , specially in developing and poor countries:

  1. Dietary risks and diseases spread by  water sanitation and hygiene.   These  have  direct  linked with bad sanitation and poor hygiene practices. Poor sanitation is the leading cause of diarrhea, malnutrition, cholera, jaundice ( hepatitis A and E) , worm infestations, typhoid and other enteric fevers, which lead to chronic malnutrition and lowered immunity that further feed the infectious disease cycle.  Apart from infectious disease like diarrhea, but also pneumonia and tuberculosis, which are leading killers across all age groups.
  2. Undernourishment in   children  will cause them to be  underweight, stunted and wasted, and makes them  more vulnerable to infections. They are at higher risk of dying of childhood infections.

Working sewage-disposal systems, waste disposal management, protection of water supply from contamination and hand-washing practices are essential components to reduce preventable deaths.

  1. Poor sanitation, unsafe water and low public health also increase drug-resistant infections in low-income and middle-income countries. Lowering of antibiotic consumption  can not be achieved  because superbugs ,  and antibiotic resistance  are already in the environment and continue to spread through contaminated food, water and hospital equipment.

Antibiotics overuse is rampant as they are  used to treat diarrhea and upper respiratory tract infections. Improving sanitation, providing clean water, adopting personal hygiene and getting vaccinated can reduce infections.

  1. Air pollution : air pollution is a public health crisis.  Masses are forced to breathe in air which  contains pollutants  in  unsafe limits, some are carcinogenic. It  is a cause of  millions of deaths  It is besides many fold of this number live their life with morbidity. Polluting vehicles, industry, lesser trees and plantations, poor practices and not enough governance and policies have resulted in poisonous air to breathe. Diseases like COPD, asthma and lung cancer are few common ailments.
  2. A::Dog bite (rabies ), Animal poop and Human – animal interface:   Not properly disposed  animal poop is a  cause of generation of infections and diseases, requiring heavy use of antibiotics and consequently leads to emergence of further antibiotic resistance bacteria. This cycle of production of infections and use of antibiotics perpetuates a vicious cycle.  Stray animals still defecate at every place.  Poop of Stray dogs, cattle and pigs stays in environment and causes life threatening infections. Hundreds of diseases are described due to poor control of human animal interface.

But stray animals and dogs are everywhere. Owner of pet dogs make them defecate outside their own houses and on the roads and wherever their dogs chooses. This poop dried and mixed with dust, acts a source of infection to the community.

         B::   Life threatening infections : dog’s and animal faeces is a big health hazard. It is even worse than a dog bite since it spreads infection in entire community. Animal faeces contain pathogens, which are known to cause severe diseases, infections and organ failure. Many diseases may be spread by millions of these dogs and other animals like pigs, cattle as their faeces contain parasites, bacteria and viruses. These include life threatening bacterial infections by E. coli, MRSA, Leptospira, Salmonellosis, Campylobacteriosis, brucellosis, Rickettsia and parasitic infections like  Giardiasis, Whipworm, Hookworm, Roundworms, Tapeworms,    Cryptosporidiosis, Echinococcosis, Leishmaniasis etc. Viral infections like rabies, influenza and other viruses may also spread through these animals.

               C:: Environmental health Hazard: Storm water runoff due to extensive rainfall can wash off all these droppings into drains, many of which are connected to river systems and water sources.  This can lead to a widespread source of waterborne illnesses. Dry  poop on the roads is mixed with dust particles and in the air. So everyone is living in a highly infectious environment.

6.     Mosquito borne diseases: millions die because of vector borne disease , as mosquito control  has been inadequate.  Malaria, dengue,  chickengunya  and many other lethal  diseases spread  due to mosquitoes.

 

7.      Preventable natural disasters exacerbated by human activity: floods, famine, disease outbreaks.

8.      Road, rail  accidents and other accidents: are mostly  preventable errors.

         The role of health care professionals in present day circumstances remains misunderstood and underappreciated, as they assume the responsibility for continuous care of the sick or injured. People who have never treated a patient  in their life time influence health policies, which effects  millions. Excessive preventable deaths are  just a symptoms of a larger problem.  Who  is the one who feels moral burden of millions of preventable deaths?

     .

 

Women doctor and nurses more prone to work–life imbalance


 

Being a health provider  is a tough and stressful job. In any hospital, work goes on during  day and night. Rather many times nights are more heavy and challenging. The systems at odd hours are run by doctors and nurses. Continuous requirement to do odd time shifts, hard training and work demands tend to affect the overall work-life balance of doctors and nurses.

For women, it is particularly more stressful. As at some stage of life, both professional and personal roles become too demanding.  Expectation at both fronts is guided by the idea of perfection. Perception of deviation from the ideal or little imperfection   can lead to sense of aversion, linked to  average performance for them.  If they try to match the ambitions, want more in career, from the partner, children, or themselves, face the real risk of burn out. The cognizance  that perfection cannot be matched or arduous to achieve, in their circumstances, is hard to be realized  at both places.   The quest and  passion of  the women doctors or nurses, to seek perfection at both places, makes them  more prone for  burnout. This  is  a consequence to  a grave exhaustion, in their bid  to balance everything.  Woman doctors and nurses, are specially  more susceptible to stress of a kind,  as most of them face the same ordeal.

Family priority:

Perception of role identity at home  is little different on  being a woman doctor/nurse.  Male doctors are in a better position to  prioritize their work duties over their family duties  in order to  provide financial support for their families. For female doctors , there is a natural tendency to  prioritize their family life.

  Inflexibility or shift working a routine:    

         The  issues will always remain, like spending long hours at work due to inflexibility, or requirement to do shift  duties , need to stay more with patient and training requirements. For females it is very common and  frequently  lead to an imbalance between work and family duties.   More  time spent at work has an direct impact    on family requirements. Sometimes  there are financial requirements of the family, for which they are forced to  negate the effect on family duties.  In such situations they are unable to successfully complete these family duties.

High career ambitions:

Higher  education leads  to ambitions for higher social recognition and better career orientation. These goals are another  reason for taking this dual stress.  In order to correct this  imbalance, many  women doctors  expose themselves to unsolicited job stress. This reflect  in lives as chronic lack of time and  leads to pressure and stress.  The mentioned stresses and strains could lead in the long term to irreversible, physical signs of wear and tear, as well as to negative effects on the human cardiovascular and immune systems.

   Prolonged and odd working hours:

In medical profession,  simply working hard is not enough anymore. To get ahead, a rigorous training, prolonged working hours are  new standards. There is very  little time left to be divided   among relationships, kids, and sleep.

 

Conflict by Perception:

The conflict of work and family is further exacerbated  by perceived deviation from being a  good worker  at  work place and  ideal mother at  home. At work  place, they are looked as less dedicated and similarly at home as well.  Lack of organizational support  for doctors/nurses is main reason for these kind of imbalance.  They are squeezed in between  pressures at work and demands at home.

Extending families:

These day, pressures are so high that  many young women doctors,  want to just stay at home and do housework without having careers. May  give up careers to have children. It strikes to young doctors as a surprise, simply how difficult it is to build a family. The learning curve of taking care of family along with professional  responsibilities is too steep. In such situations, when everything is compounded, with  workload, it becomes utterly exhaustive.

Motherhood:

Breaks taken for family requirements may be taken as red flags, by employers. Delivery and feeding child become  difficult tasks specially in clinical branches, where long duties are routine.

Motherhood needs to be squeezed in between the requirement of profession. Changes in schedule or adjustments made are perceived as “being different”.

While women are increasingly represented in the medical field, they still face challenges balancing work and home life. The frustrations manifest in  burnout and dissatisfaction within a field they once enjoyed.

also read: work-life imbalance for doctors/nurse & consequences

 

Nipah Virus : Karnataka at high alert: suspected cases of rare virus, fanning fears


The Karnataka ( south India) state is on high alert, especially in areas bordering Kerala, after 11 people died of the mysterious Nipah Virus in Kozhikode over the last few days.

The Karnataka Health and Family Welfare Department has directed primary healthcare centres in Chamarajnagar and Mysuru districts, which share the border with Kerala, to be alert and to report any patients from Kerala with suspected Nipah cases. A team from Delhi has been sent to Kerala and based on the report, national guidelines will be issued.

Those travelling to Kerala should be cautious when and if they come in contact with Nipah-infected people. Avoid eating fruits fallen on the ground and drinking raw date palm sap in Kerala. Avoid coming in contact with sick domestic animals and pigs.

Nipah Virus infection is zoonotic, which means the disease has spread from animals to humans, and can causes severe conditions in animals and humans. The natural host of the virus are fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family, Pteropus genus. The virus transmits through direct contact with infected bats, pigs or from other NiV-infected people through touch or body fluids. Disease is contagious and can spread from person-to-person.

The infection in humans can cause a wide range of clinical presentations, from asymptomatic (no symptoms) to acute respiratory syndrome (cough, breathlessness and respiratory distress) and fatal encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). After exposure to virus, symptoms start after an incubation period of 5-14 days. Usual symptoms are fever and headache for 3-10 days followed by drowsiness, confusion, seizures and altered sensorium. Signs and symptoms can progress rapidly to coma and death in 24-48 hours. Nipah Virus encephalitis is fatal with a high mortality rate.

Stressing should be on precautions. The people in affected areas should avoid eating or drinking date palm sap (raw date palm sap, a sweet drink popular in the winter, when the sap is easy to tap from trees pierced with a spigot. A bat clings to a palm tree as it eats sap just above a collection jar). Disease can be prevented by avoiding animals that are known to be infected and using appropriate personal protective equipment.

There is no vaccine for the Nipah virus, carried by fruit bats and spread  through contact with bodily fluids, the World Health Organization (WHO) says. Treatment for the virus, which has a mortality rate of about 70 percent, is supportive care.

Nipah virus scare: prevention and control of deadly virus


The National Virology Institute, Pune, confirmed that the contagious fever that has killed several people in Kozhikode and Malappuram districts over the last fortnight is due to Nipah virus ( NiV). Six more people succumbed to symptoms suspected to be that of Nipah virus on Sunday.
    It is the first detection in Kerala of the Nipah virus which has a high fatality rate and spreads mainly through bats, pigs and other animals. Its symptoms include fever, vomiting, headache, drowsiness, coma and respiratory problems.
Virus has an incubation period of 4 to 18 days. Health workers  need to  take the highest level of protection while handling patients. No specific treatment is available but intensive care support is required.

Origion and History of initial identification:

Nipah virus (NiV) is a member of the family Paramyxoviridae, genus Henipavirus. NiV was initially isolated and identified in 1999 during an outbreak of encephalitis and respiratory illness among pig farmers and people with close contact with pigs in Malaysia and Singapore. Its name originated from Sungai Nipah, a village in the Malaysian Peninsula where pig farmers became ill with encephalitis. Given the relatedness of NiV to Hendra virus,  bat species were quickly singled out for investigation and flying foxes of the genus Pteropus were subsequently identified as the reservoir for NiV .

In the 1999 outbreak, Nipah virus caused a relatively mild disease in pigs, but nearly 300 human cases with over 100 deaths were reported. In order to stop the outbreak, more than a million pigs were euthanized, causing tremendous trade loss for Malaysia. Since this outbreak, no subsequent cases (in neither swine nor human) have been reported in either Malaysia or Singapore.

In 2001, NiV was again identified as the causative agent in an outbreak of human disease occurring in Bangladesh. Genetic sequencing confirmed this virus as Nipah virus, but a strain different from the one identified in 1999. In the same year, another outbreak was identified retrospectively in Siliguri, India with reports of person-to-person transmission in hospital settings (nosocomial transmission). Unlike the Malaysian NiV outbreak, outbreaks occur almost annually in Bangladesh and have been reported several times in India.

Symptoms and investigation

Nipah virus’s (NiV) symptoms in humans are similar to viral fever such as fever, headache and muscle pain. Perhaps, these symptoms should be taken seriously as they were a part of rare viral fever – identified as the Nipah virus (NiV) – that claimed lives in Kerala.

NiV infection is associated with encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and can lead to disorientation and mental confusion, or coma in some cases – encephalitis may present as acute or late onset. While the later may be difficult to diagnose, those who may have recovered from an acute episode may also have a relapse.

Since the symptoms of Nipah virus are similar to that of influenza, it can be difficult to determine whether the person is affected by NiV based on symptoms alone. According to WHO, procedures for laboratory diagnosis of Nipah virus include a series of tests – serology, histopathology, PCR and virus isolation. Serum Neutralization Test, ELISA, RT-PCR are used for laboratory confirmation. Also, magnetic resonance of the brain can help differentiate Nipah encephalitis from other encephalitis as well as in defining between acute and late-onset or a relapsed form of the disease.

Prevention and control

Till date, there is no effective vaccine for Nipah virus disease, treatment is mostly focused on managing fever and the neurological symptoms. Ribavarin may help alleviate the symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and convulsions. Severely ill patients require hospitalisation and may require the use of a ventilator. Therapeutics and vaccine are said to be under development.

Adopting standard infection control practices is vital in preventing the spread of person-to-person transmission of the disease. As the main strategy is to prevent NiV in humans, establishing appropriate surveillance systems is necessary to detect the disease outbreaks quickly so that appropriate control measures are initiated in time.

Research is needed to better understand the ecology of bats and Nipah virus, investigating questions such as the seasonality of disease within reproductive cycles of bats. Surveillance tools should include reliable laboratory assays for early detection of disease in communities and livestock, and raising awareness of transmission and symptoms is important in reinforcing standard infection control practices to avoid human-to-human infections in hospital settings (nosocomial infection).

A subunit vaccine, using the Hendra G protein, produces cross-protective antibodies against HENV and NIPV has been recently used in Australia to protect horses against Hendra virus. This vaccine offers great potential for henipavirus protection in humans as well.

https://www.cdc.gov/vhf/nipah/prevention/index.html

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