• India
  • Sep 13

Nipah virus claims two lives in Kerala’s Kozhikode

• The Nipah virus has killed two people and infected two others in Kerala’s Kozhikode district.

• Samples were sent for testing to the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune and received confirmation. 

• State Health Minister Veena George said that the virus strain seen in Kerala was the Bangladesh variant that spreads from human to human and has a high mortality rate, though it is less infectious.

• Teams from NIV, Pune will set up a mobile lab at Kozhikode Medical College to test for Nipah and carry out survey of bats.

• A massive contact tracing exercise has already begun. The health department has identified 168 contacts among the two deceased persons found infected with the Nipah virus.

Nipah virus

• Nipah virus (NiV), a zoonotic virus (transmitted from animals to humans), has a mortality rate as high as 70 per cent and that is considered to be a pathogen of pandemic potential.

• Nipah virus is a type of Henipavirus naturally held in fruit bats. The virus can cause illness in pigs and humans, and can be spread to humans from animals, infected food and other people with the virus.

• Fruit bats of the family Pteropodidae – particularly species belonging to the Pteropus genus – are the natural hosts for Nipah virus.

• Similar to SARS-CoV-2, NiV is an RNA virus that is transmitted by respiratory droplets. Because of the global pandemic of COVID-19, there is heightened concern regarding respiratory pathogens.

• In infected people, it causes a range of illnesses from asymptomatic (sub-clinical) infection to acute respiratory illness and fatal encephalitis. The virus can also cause severe disease in animals such as pigs, resulting in significant economic losses for farmers.

• Infected people initially develop symptoms including fever, headaches, myalgia (muscle pain), vomiting, and sore throat. This can be followed by dizziness, drowsiness, altered consciousness, and neurological signs that indicate acute encephalitis. Some people can also experience atypical pneumonia and severe respiratory problems, including acute respiratory distress.

• Encephalitis and seizures occur in severe cases, progressing to coma within 24 to 48 hours. Most people who survive acute encephalitis make a full recovery, but long-term neurologic conditions have been reported in survivors. 

• Nipah virus was first recognised in 1999 during an outbreak among pig farmers in Malaysia. It was also recognised in Bangladesh in 2001, and nearly annual outbreaks have occurred in that country since. 

• There were outbreaks in India, especially in Kerala, in the last four years, and has so far claimed nearly 20 lives.

• It has been listed as one of the viruses most likely to cause the next pandemic by the World Health Organisation.

• Currently, there are no vaccines licensed for the prevention of Nipah disease. At least eight experimental preventive candidate vaccines against henipaviruses have been evaluated in pre-clinical animal models. Experimental monoclonal antibodies have been developed to treat Nipah virus disease under compassionate use.

• In March 2022, scientists at the University of Texas announced development of a vaccine that could protect against the deadly Nipah virus in just three days.

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