On September 13th, the southern Indian state of Kerala took proactive measures to contain the rare and deadly Nipah virus outbreak, resulting in the closure of certain schools, offices, and public transport services. The virus has claimed the lives of two individuals, with one adult and one child still hospitalized. Over 130 people have undergone testing for the virus, which is transmitted through contact with the bodily fluids of infected bats, pigs, or humans, according to a state health official.
Kerala’s Health Minister, Veena George, stated that authorities are diligently tracing the contacts of infected individuals and isolating those displaying symptoms. She revealed that the strain of Nipah detected in Kerala is the Bangladesh variant, characterized by human-to-human transmission with a high mortality rate but a history of lower infectiousness. Certain regions within the state have experienced restrictions on public movement to manage the medical crisis.
Since August 30th, two individuals have succumbed to the virus, marking Kerala’s fourth Nipah outbreak since 2018. Containment zones have been established in at least seven villages within the Kozhikode district, and stringent isolation protocols are being enforced. Medical personnel who have had contact with infected individuals are being quarantined.
The first victim, a small-scale farmer cultivating bananas and areca nuts in Marutonkara village, has been thoroughly traced by government officials to identify potential contacts and locations visited before the onset of illness. The victim’s daughter and brother-in-law, both infected, are currently in isolation, while other family members and neighbors are undergoing testing. An initial investigation suggests that the second victim contracted the virus while in the same hospital as the first victim, although they were not related.
To further assess the situation and study the local fruit bat population, three federal teams, including experts from the National Virology Institute, arrived in the affected region. The Nipah virus was initially identified in 1999 during an outbreak among pig farmers and individuals in close proximity to pigs in Malaysia and Singapore. Previous outbreaks in South Asia were linked to the consumption of date-palm sap contaminated with bat excreta.
Kerala experienced its first Nipah outbreak in which 21 out of 23 infected individuals lost their lives. Subsequent outbreaks in 2019 and 2021 claimed two additional lives. A prior Reuters investigation identified parts of Kerala as global hotspots at risk of bat virus outbreaks, driven by extensive deforestation and urbanization, which have brought humans and wildlife into closer contact.
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