NEW DELHI: Kerala is on high alert after a resurgence of the potentially deadly Nipah
) in its Kozhikode district. The
virus infections have killed two people in Kerala. Two other adults and a child, who are infected, are quarantined in a hospital.
Fourth time in five years
The virus has surfaced in Kerala for the fourth time since 2018, when it claimed 21 lives out of 23 infected.
Smaller Nipah outbreaks were recorded in 2019 and 2021 which killed two people.
What is Nipah?
Nipah is a zoonotic virus (transmission happens from animal to humans).It can spread through contaminated food or directly between humans on exposure to secretions.
Is this a different variant?
found in Kerala this time has come from Bangladesh and is understood to be less infectious. But it has a higher mortality rate, and health experts say it spreads from human to human.
Besides inducing common viral fever symptoms, this infection affects the nervous system as well.
The central nervous system gets involved, resulting in encephalitis or the inflammation of the brain. This may put patients into a coma in 24 to 48 hours.
An estimated 40% to 75% of infected patients die of the complications caused by a Nipah virus infection.
But the mortality rates vary from outbreak to outbreak.
Prevention & treatment
Health experts suggest similar preventive measures as Covid-19 — masking, social distancing, and use of sanitisers. The disease can only be prevented with caution.
There are no Nipah vaccines available for humans or animals. There are not any effective treatments other than supportive care. Researchers are currently developing monoclonal antibodies — immunotherapeutic drugs that would directly fight the virus — but no licensed treatments are yet available.
A multinational virus
First identified in 1999, the virus has been reported from five countries till date — Malaysia, Singapore, Bangladesh, Philippines and India.