In a bid to contain the spread of the rare and deadly Nipah virus, Kerala, a southern state in India, has taken swift action. Two individuals have succumbed to the virus, prompting authorities to implement precautionary measures.
Two adults and one child remain hospitalized with Nipah virus infections. Over 700 people are currently undergoing tests for the virus. The Nipah virus spreads through contact with infected bats, pigs, or humans.
The state government has reported that at least 706 people, including 153 healthcare workers, are being tested to curb the virus’s spread. Test results are pending, and more tests may follow if necessary.
Pinarayi Vijayan, the Chief Minister of Kerala, urged the public to avoid gatherings in Kozhikode district for the next ten days. Containment zones have been established in eight Kozhikode villages. Health Minister Veena George emphasized the importance of early contact tracing and isolation of symptomatic individuals.
The Nipah virus detected in Kerala matches a strain previously found in Bangladesh, which has a history of high mortality but lower infectivity between humans.
Healthcare professionals are following strict isolation protocols after contact with infected individuals. Antivirals and monoclonal antibodies are being employed to treat those affected, including a healthcare worker.
The first victim, a small-scale farmer in Maruthonkara village, was the initial point of focus for contact tracing. His daughter and brother-in-law, who contracted the virus, are in isolation, while other family members and neighbors are being tested.
The second death resulted from contact within a hospital, although the two individuals were not related.
Nipah Virus Background
The Nipah virus was first identified in 1999 during an outbreak among pig farmers in Malaysia and Singapore. In South Asia, past infections have occurred when individuals consumed date-palm sap contaminated with bat excreta.
The native village of the first victim, Maruthonkara, is near a 300-acre forest inhabited by various bat species. Fruit bats from the same area had tested positive for the virus during the 2018 Nipah outbreak.
Kerala has experienced three previous Nipah outbreaks. The first outbreak in 2018 claimed 21 lives. Outbreaks in 2019 and 2021 resulted in two fatalities each.
Neighboring Tamil Nadu state has announced medical testing for travelers arriving from Kerala, with isolation for those displaying flu symptoms.
An investigation in May highlighted Kerala as a high-risk area globally for bat virus outbreaks. Extensive deforestation and urbanization have brought people and wildlife into closer contact, increasing the risk of transmission.
The situation remains dynamic, with health authorities closely monitoring developments and taking proactive measures to contain the Nipah virus. Public cooperation and adherence to guidelines are crucial in preventing further spread.