What is the Nipah virus?
A type of Henipavirus, Nipah virus (NiV) is from a category of RNA (ribonucleic acid) viruses naturally carried by pteropid fruit bats or flying foxes, and microbats of several species.

What happens when the Nipah virus affects humans?
Once the virus affects a human, there is an incubation period as the virus spreads which could range from four to 14 days. While this could be asymptomatic, people usually show symptoms of mild fever, muscle pain, cough and fatigue.

This can then progress to full-blown acute respiratory infection and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain tissue). Both of these conditions could be fatal. The patients can also slip into a coma once the encephalitis reaches severe conditions.

Are bats natural carriers of the virus?
This particular virus is usually found in the fruit-consuming bats, so it’s safe to say that they are natural carriers.

Does the virus affect other mammals?
Yes, there have been cases of the same virus infecting pigs and horses. This is based on limited primary research conducted during previous outbreaks. The thing with viruses is that they can easily shift from one species to another given a chance or favourable conditions.

Viruses can mutate quickly and adapt to a different host if they find conditions conducive to their existence in the new host. Usually this host may not even be the final or primary target (affected by the virus), they may just be another intermediate or accidental host or carrier.

Two people suspected to be infected with the brain-damaging Nipah virus are under treatment in India's Karnataka state, a health official said on Wednesday, after an outbreak of the rare virus in neighbouring Kerala state killed 10.

Symptoms of the virus were seen in a 20-year old woman and a 75-year-old man in Karnataka's port city of Mangalore after they travelled to Kerala and came into contact with infected patients there, Rajesh B.V., a district surveillance officer said by phone.

"They are not confirmed Nipah cases yet, so there is no need to panic ... the situation is under control," he said, adding that blood samples of the two people have been sent to Manipal Centre for Virus Research and results are awaited by Thursday. The Kerala government on Tuesday confirmed that a dozen people in the state had contracted the dreaded Nipah virus, and that 10 of them were dead.

The deceased include two siblings in Malappuram district, Mohammad Sadiq and Mohammad Salih, both in their twenties, and a nurse identified as Lini Sajeesh, who contracted the disease by her proximity to patients as part of her duties.

What are the initial symptoms of the condition?
It can be something as mild as a fever, headache, cough, cold or a generalised feeling of tiredness or weakness – as is common with a cold or mild fever.

What precautions should people take?
The first and foremost thing is to stay calm and not believe in rumours or wrong information spread through social media channels.

If you suffer from a mild cold, make sure you visit the nearest hospital and follow the doctor’s instruction to rest, hydrate and eat appropriately. Avoid large crowds in this case. Hand hygiene is the best way to protect yourself against the virus from spreading through body fluids on surfaces.

In other precautions released by WHO and government health organisation, people have been advised to avoid eating fallen fruits, avoid eating uncooked vegetables or fruits and restrain from drinking toddy, date palm sap and other raw fluids that come from trees.

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