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Outbreak of Nipah Virus in Kerala, India

The Kerala state of India issued an alert after two death tolls were reported from the rare Nipah virus.

Nipah Virus: Zoonotic Illness as Confirmed by WHO 

Diseases transmitted from animals, for example, pigs or fruit bats, are said to be zoonotic illnesses. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Nipah virus is a “zoonotic illness”.

The infected person can transmit it through physical contact or contaminated food.

Most often, people infected with viruses show signs of acute respiratory problems. However, sometimes there are no noticeable symptoms. Furthermore, it is reported to have seen foetal encephalitis, a serious condition that affects the brain, in people who are severely infected by the Nipah virus.

Currently, there is no medication or vaccine to treat this infection; consequently, the mortality rate is also high. Treatment is limited to managing symptoms and providing supportive care.

The Fourth Nipah Outbreak in Kerala, India

News reports highlight that this is the fourth outbreak of the Nipah virus in India since 2018.

The very first outbreak of Nipah virus occurred in the district of Kozhikode in 2018, which caused 17 out of 18 confirmed casualties.

Moreover, in 2019, one case was reported in Ernakulam district, and the patient recovered. However, in the year 2021, in the village of Chathamangalam, a 12-year-old died of a Nipah virus infection.

Currently, the southern state of Karela has reported two deaths from the rare Nipah virus. Officials reported that one death occurred earlier this month while the other took place on August 30, both in the state’s Kozhikode district.

Additionally, two friends of a deceased person have also tested positive for the Nipah virus and are being treated in the hospital.

The State Government in Managing the Outbreak

On Tuesday, India’s Health Minister, Mansukh Mandaviya, announced that a responsible team has been dispatched to assist in managing the outbreak.

Veena George, Kerala’s Health Minister, mentioned that 168 contacts of the two infected people have been made aware of the situation. Furthermore, they are being tested for the virus.

The state government in Kozhikode has set up a control room with the initiative to monitor and assess the situation. Health workers are directed to follow infection control protocols.

Pinarayi Vijayan, Kerala Chief Minister, said the state government was taking the deaths “very seriously”. They further requested that the locals take precautionary measures by wearing face masks and visiting hospitals only for emergencies.

However, the minister confirmed that there is no need to panic as people who were in contact with the infected were undergoing treatment.

In May, Reuters published an investigation that stated that Kerala is a tropical state and is witnessing rapid urbanisation. The constant loss of trees created “ideal conditions for a virus like Nipah to emerge”.

According to experts, habitat loss is the main reason why animals are living in closer proximity to humans. This is creating a favourable condition for the virus to jump from animals to humans.

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