A 12-year-old boy in India died from a Nipah virus infection, raising concerns of a potential outbreak in the state of Kerala.
In 1998, pig farmers in Malaysia began experiencing neurological and respiratory symptoms. Approximately 265 infections and 105 deaths occurred from the outbreak. In 1999, researchers finally managed to isolate the virus and named it the Nipah virus, after the place where the first human case occurred. Since then, several outbreaks of the disease have occurred across Asia. Bangladesh, in particular, has reported nearly annual outbreaks of the disease since 2001. Furthermore, parts of eastern India have also reported outbreaks of the Nipah virus.
In the past, India’s state of Kerala has reported a Nipah virus outbreak in 2018 and 2019. Now, for the third time, the state has reported an outbreak that has so far affected 11 people and killed one.
According to India’s health ministry, the 12-year-old boy first presented to a private clinic in Kozhikode, Kerala with a fever and other neurological symptoms. After visiting multiple hospitals across the city, he eventually passed away on 5th September. Researchers later confirmed it as a case of Nipah virus infection.
The disease spreads by exposure to body fluids of infected fruit bats or pigs, and causes a wide variety of symptoms. Infections can range from asymptomatic or mild infection to fatal encephalitis. Symptoms include fever, seizures, headache, dizziness, respiratory problems, coma, and eventually death. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the disease has a case fatality rate of 40% to 75%. There is currently no treatment or vaccine for the disease.
‘No Need to Panic’
Kerala is currently dealing with a deadly COVID pandemic. Health officials worry that a potential Nipah virus outbreak could further worsen the health conditions in the state. However, the state’s health minister, Veena George believes that there is no need for alarm at the moment. Health authorities have already started tracing and isolating the boy’s contacts.
So far, they have identified 54 high-risk contacts which include 30 healthcare workers. Moreover, 11 people are currently showing symptoms of the Nipah virus.
Kerala Health services have issued preventative measures, asking people to maintain good hygiene and avoid bat habitats.