At least ten people have died and 25 have been quarantined due to an outbreak of the Nipah virus in the Southern Indian state of Kerala, where the authorities have issued a health alert for several districts.
“Up to now, we have 10 confirmed dead due to the virus and 25 people are under observation,” Kerala’s Health Secretary Rajeev Sadanandan said.
Another nine patients have been hospitalized and were receiving medical treatment, Sadanandan added, while the number of infected could still rise as several people had been in contact with the deceased.
The regional government had launched a health alert but “only” in the Kozhikode district, where the outbreak broke out, and three administrative areas surrounding it.
Nipah is a contagious virus that is transmitted through fluids, such as saliva and blood, and therefore easily propagated.
The initial symptoms of the disease include high fever, headache, and changes in behavior while, at a later stage, the disease can cause encephalitis.
Since there is no vaccine for the virus, doctors can only treat the symptoms and that the fatality rate is very high over 70 percent.
India’s Health Minister J.P. Nadda said in a statement on Monday that he was closely monitoring the situation and had sent a multi-disciplinary team from the National Centre for Disease Control to Kerala.
The Nipah virus carried by fruit bats, also called flying foxes, is daunting. Well-known South Asian and South-East, it has been discovered in Malaysia in 1998 in pig farms in a village in which it holds the name. “The livestock farms in which the disease appeared for the first time, had fruit trees which attracted the bats from the tropical forest, perhaps a result of programs of deforestation,” explains a document from the World Organisation for animal health (OIE). The pigs would have been infected by the virus by being exposed to the feces of bats.
In February, the WHO included Nipah on its list of diseases to prioritize for research because of its epidemic potential, along with Ebola and Zika, among others.
According to the BBC, security officers of health have found dead bats in the wells of one of the victims.
To avoid further contamination, the authorities have asked the families not to wash the body and cremate them as quickly as possible. Prevention is the only effective strategy to avoid infection. There is no preventive or curative therapy. The research on this virus is still preliminary.
Currently, a dozen vaccines are under development in China, North America, Australia or France.
The French Inserm team has obtained promising results in studies with hamsters.
In 2013, it had been shown that vaccine-derived from measles provided total protection against the virus. But since then, the research became stagnate. The science teams never launched trials in humans. A situation that is worrying the World Health Organization (WHO) to the point of placing the disease Nipah virus in its list of “emerging diseases priority that is likely to become a public health emergency”.
It should be said that more than 1.5 billion people live in areas inhabited by the natural reservoir of the virus.
Image via India Today