Kerala Issues Alert as Rare Nipah Virus Claims Lives

The southern Indian state of Kerala has sounded the alarm following the confirmation of two deaths attributed to the rare Nipah virus.

Officials reported one fatality earlier this month and another on August 30th, both within the Kozhikode district of the state.

Additionally, two relatives of one of the victims have tested positive for the virus and are currently receiving medical care.

This marks the fourth Nipah outbreak in Kerala since 2018. The Nipah virus is classified as a “zoonotic illness,” typically transmitted from animals such as pigs and fruit bats to humans, according to the World Health Organization. It can also spread through contaminated food or contact with infected individuals.

Symptoms of Nipah virus infection vary, with some individuals displaying no noticeable signs, while others experience acute respiratory issues. In severe cases, Nipah infection can lead to encephalitis, a severe brain condition.

Unfortunately, there is no specific medicine or vaccine available to treat the virus, and treatment is primarily focused on managing symptoms and providing supportive care.

India’s Health Minister, Mansukh Mandaviya, has dispatched a team of experts to Kerala to assess the situation and assist the state government in managing the outbreak.

Kerala’s Health Minister, Veena George, confirmed that the virus strain in this outbreak is the same as the one found in Bangladesh. Teams from the National Institute of Virology are establishing a mobile lab at Kozhikode Medical College to test for the virus and conduct surveys on bats.

To date, 168 contacts of the deceased individuals have been identified and are undergoing testing for the virus. The state government has set up a control room in Kozhikode to monitor the situation, and health workers are following strict infection control protocols.

Authorities have declared seven villages in Kozhikode as containment zones, with some schools and offices in the district temporarily closed.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan urged caution, advising people to wear face masks and visit hospitals only for emergencies. He assured the public that there was no need to panic, as those in contact with the deceased individuals were receiving medical attention.

Kozhikode experienced its first and most severe Nipah outbreak in 2018, resulting in 17 of 18 confirmed cases ending in fatalities. In 2019, one case was reported in the Ernakulam district, with the patient recovering. Unfortunately, in 2021, a 12-year-old infected boy in Chathamangalam village succumbed to the virus.

Experts point to habitat loss as a contributing factor to the emergence of the Nipah virus in Kerala. Rapid urbanization and deforestation have created conditions conducive to the virus’s transmission from animals to humans, as animals increasingly share habitats with humans.


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