Why in News:
- Case of the zoonotic Nipah virus infection has been reported in Kozhikode district of Kerala.
- Nipah virus (NiV) is a zoonotic virus (it is transmitted from animals to humans) and can also be transmitted through contaminated food or directly between people.
- In infected people, it causes a range of illnesses from asymptomatic (subclinical) infection to acute respiratory illness and fatal encephalitis. The virus can also cause severe disease in animals such as pigs, resulting in significant economic losses for farmers.
- Fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family are the natural host of Nipah virus.
- The virus is present in urine, bat faeces, saliva, and birthing fluids of bats.
- There is no treatment or vaccine available for either people or animals. The primary treatment for humans is supportive care.
- Nipah virus is on the WHO list of Blueprint priority diseases.
History of Nipah
- Nipah virus was first recognized in 1999 during an outbreak among pig farmers in Malaysia.
- It was also recognized in Bangladesh in 2001, and nearly annual outbreaks have occurred in that country since.
- In 2018, an outbreak of the disease caused deaths in Kerala.
- Bats are the largest mammalian group after rodents, with over 1,300 species making up a quarter of all mammals.
- The Indian Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 consigned bats to schedule V as ‘vermin’.
- They are the only mammals capable of true flight and have a unique sonar-based echolocation mechanism to capture prey at night.
- Some of the diseases spread by bats
- Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)
Ecological Significance of Bats
- Bats are important pollinators and crop protectors, especially of large-flowered plants. Pollination of flowers, dispersal of seeds of trees, shrubs and climbers are all part of their function in the ecosystem.
- Insectivorous bats are ferocious hunters of nocturnal insects and crop pests, accounting for 70% of all bat species.
- Bat droppings contribute to soil fertility and agricultural output by providing organic input and facilitating nutrient transfer. In terms of human health, the practise is safe.
- Seed dispersal
- Tropical fruit bats play a significant role in rainforest ecosystems.
- Bat droppings in the caves they occupy support a delicate ecosystem composed of unusual organisms.