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Nipah virus in Kerala: 10 tips to boost immunity against the deadly virus

Nipah virus cases are spreading in Kerala and so far, 6 people have been tested positive for the virus and two infected people have been killed. The schools and educational institutions will remain shut till September 24 in Kozhikode in the wake of the virus spread. Indian state of Kerala has seen multiple Nipah virus outbreak since 2018 when it happened for the first time. Earlier West Bengal had reported Nipah virus cases before 2018. Nipah virus was first identified in 1998 during an outbreak in Malaysia. Nipah is a zoonotic infection that can cause severe illness in human and is transmitted from animals to humans and can also spread from human to human. Symptoms can begin with fever, headache, muscle pain, fatigue, nausea and progresses to seizures, encephalitis and coma. (Also read: Nipah virus outbreak: Top 10 symptoms of the deadly virus; prevention and treatment tips)

Nipah virus is a deadly virus that has caused outbreaks in parts of India, including Kerala. Boosting immunity is important to help protect against viral infections like Nipah virus(DW/NIH / IMAGE POINT FR/picture alliance)

While there is no cure for Nipah virus, one should take measures to develop immunity by following healthy diet, doing regular exercise, and practising good hygiene like washing hands frequently.

“Nipah virus is a deadly virus that has caused outbreaks in parts of India, including Kerala. Boosting immunity is important to help protect against viral infections like Nipah virus. However, it’s crucial to understand that there is no specific vaccine or treatment for Nipah virus, so prevention and general immune support are key,” says Dr Avi Kumar, Senior Consultant, Pulmonology, Fortis Escorts, Okhla Road, New Delhi.

“The recent outbreak of Nipah virus in Kerala has raised significant concerns among healthcare professionals and the general public. While there is currently no definitive antiviral treatment or vaccine available for Nipah, emphasis on preventive strategies remains paramount. It’s essential to understand that Nipah is a communicable disease, and its transmission largely depends on individual immunity. Factors influencing susceptibility to the virus include the general health status of an individual, their immune status, and whether or not they are taking immunosuppressants. Therefore, in the context of a high mortality rate—approximately 70% associated with Nipah virus infection—adhering to basic hygiene practices such as frequent handwashing remains key, as does avoiding raw fruits and improperly cooked meats in affected areas,” says Dr Dipu TS, Associate Professor, Division of Infectious Diseases, Amrita Hospital, Kochi.


Here are some general tips on how to boost immunity against Nipah virus suggested by Dr Avi Kumar:

1. Practise good hygiene

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid close contact with infected individuals, especially those showing symptoms.
  • Use masks and gloves:
  • If you are in close contact with someone who is infected, use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks and gloves.
  • Avoid exposure to bats and infected animals:
  • Nipah virus is believed to be transmitted from bats to humans through direct or indirect contact with infected bats or their bodily fluids. Avoid handling bats or their excrement.

2. Follow food safety guidelines

  • Avoid consuming raw date palm sap or any fruit contaminated by bat saliva or urine.
  • Properly wash and cook fruits before consuming them.

3. Maintain a healthy diet

  • Eat a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
  • Include foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc, which are known to support immune function.

4. Stay hydrated

Drink plenty of water to stay well-hydrated, which is important for overall health and immune function.

5. Get adequate sleep

Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night to support your immune system’s ability to fight off infections.

6. Manage stress

Chronic stress can weaken your immune system. Practice stress-reduction techniques like meditation, yoga, deep breathing, or mindfulness.

7. Exercise regularly

Engage in regular physical activity, which can help improve immune function. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.

8. Avoid smoking and limit alcohol

Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can weaken your immune system, so it’s best to avoid them or use them in moderation.

9. Consider supplements (if advised)

Consult with a healthcare professional before taking any supplements. Some people may benefit from supplements like vitamin D or zinc if they have deficiencies.

10. Stay informed

Stay updated on the latest information and guidelines provided by local health authorities regarding Nipah virus outbreaks.

“Remember that the best defence against Nipah virus is prevention. If you suspect you or someone you know has been exposed to Nipah virus or is showing symptoms, seek immediate medical attention and follow the guidance of healthcare professionals and public health authorities in your area. It’s also essential to stay informed about the latest developments in Nipah virus outbreaks and follow any specific guidelines provided by health authorities in your region,” says Dr Avi.

“The primary focus in preventing Nipah should be on reducing contact with infected individuals or sources of the virus rather than taking specific supplements to enhance immunity. To quote the adage, ‘prevention is better than cure,’ this is particularly true for Nipah given the disease’s high mortality rate. Avoiding contact with factors that could predispose one to developing Nipah, such as consuming palm sap, or eating fruits that have been bitten by bats, is of utmost importance. Public health interventions like awareness campaigns and rigorous surveillance are also instrumental in controlling the spread of the virus. Rather than advocating for immune boosters, the essential message for the public should be on these precautionary measures, which serve as our most effective line of defence against this deadly pathogen,” says Dr Dipu.

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