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All You Need To Know About The Nipah Virus That Has Killed 17 People In Kerala

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On May 31, a 25-year-old man died due to the deadly Nipah virus, taking the death toll of the people to have succumbed to the deadly virus in Kerala to 17. All the deaths have taken place in the past month or so. The deadliness of the virus can be gauged from the fact that out of the 20 people infected by the virus and having been admitted for treatment, 17 have died.

How Severe Is The Situation Currently?

Even though many deaths have occurred over the past two weeks, the immediate cause of concern is the recent casualties which have resulted in the deaths of three people in a period of just two days in the last week. It prompted the state health minister KK Shailaja to state, “We had indicated at the very outset that there could be a possible second outbreak, and those who came into contact with the infected would be particularly vulnerable. All such people have to be closely watched.”

According to the minister, 1,950 people have come in contact with confirmed NiV cases. In Kozhikode district, from where a maximum number of casualties have been reported in the state, all educational institutions will remain closed until June 12.

What Exactly Is The Nipah Virus?

The World Health Organization describes the Nipah virus infection as ‘a newly emerging zoonosis that causes severe disease in both animals and humans. The natural host of the virus are fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family, Pteropus genus’.

The infections have proven to be fatal in many instances and currently, there exists no vaccination for this. The only way one can somehow survive the infection is by intensive supportive care.

The virus can either spread if a human comes in contact with a bat’s infected saliva or excreta. through a pig who may have been infected, contaminated food or from another human. According to the World Health Organization, “From 2001 to 2008, around half of reported cases in Bangladesh were due to human-to-human transmission through providing care to infected patients.”

The average incubation period of the infection is estimated to be anywhere between 4-14 days. However, there have been instances where the incubation period has been reported to be much longer.

What The Virus Does To Your Body

It has the potential to cause many respiratory problems. There is a possibility of such strong seizures taking place that the individual goes into a coma in the next 24-48 hours.

Other symptoms include a sore throat, headache, vomiting, etc.

Some of the ones who are able to survive acute encephalitis also end up having long-term neurological conditions.

The fatality rate of the virus is dependent upon various factors such as the local environment and facilities available. For example, the fatality rate in Malaysia was a little less than 40%, but in India, it has been so far over 70%. In Kerala alone, it is 85%.

A Brief History Of The Virus And The Damage It Has Done

An outbreak of a disease took place in Kampung Sungai Nipah, Malaysia in 1998. The virus got its name from there too. In Kampung Sungai Nipah, the virus was being spread from bats to pigs and then to humans. It is estimated that out of the 265 cases, 105 turned out to be fatal in Malaysia. The infection had also spread to Singapore. The Nipah virus was finally controlled after slaughtering over a million pigs in Malaysia.

The bats in the region are migratory and have spread the infection to countries like Bangladesh and India.

The next destination of the virus was Bangladesh. The first outbreak of the infection took place in the country in 2001. Since then, reports of outbreaks have been almost a yearly affair in particular districts of Bangladesh. According to the World Health Organization, 161 people have died from 2001 until March 31, 2012, out of the 209 human cases of infections in Bangladesh.

The virus managed to cross the border and resulted in fatalities in neighbouring West Bengal as well. Two outbreaks took place. One in Siliguri in 2001 and the other in Nadia in 2007. Overall, 50 deaths took place in the two outbreaks. Seventy-one people were infected in West Bengal.

How it spread to Kerala is currently not known. Fruit bats have tested negative for the virus. However, it may be possible that the infected bats were not tested. The rabbits tested were also found to be negative for the virus.

Despite the high fatality rate, according to news, reports the Kerala government responded to the emergency in a very impressive manner. Almost 1,500 people who are believed to have come in contact with the confirmed cases are carefully being monitored. Not just that, by May 20, anti-infection measures were ready.

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Image source: Wikimedia Commons
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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