Very deadliest than the Sars-CoV-2 coronavirus, the virus Nipah is causing concern among Indian authorities after the death of a 12-year-old boy, infected in the state of Kerala.
The boy had been hospitalized for a week with a high fever, but his condition worsened as he developed signs of encephalitis, an inflammation and swelling of the brain. Before he died, the young man came into contact with 188 people, 20 of whom were at high risk.
All those who were close to the boy are now quarantined or hospitalized. At least 88 people are quarantined. Two health professionals who came into contact with the boy showed symptoms of Nipah infection on Monday 6, and their blood samples were sent for testing.
“There is no need to panic, but we need to be careful,” Veena George, Kerala’s health minister, told local media, while Federal Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said a team from the National Center for Disease Control were deployed in the area to provide assistance.
Health officials warn that Nipah could cause a pandemic, although its spread has never reached a pandemic level since the virus was discovered in 1999. World Health Organization (WHO) of diseases and pathogens prioritized for research and development in emergency contexts.
What is Nipah Virus?
A 12-year-old boy died after contracting the Nipah virus in the Indian state of Kerala on Sunday, raising fears of a new health crisis in a country that has already lost more than 441,000 lives to the coronavirus pandemic.
Since then, at least two health professionals have tested positive for the Nipah virus, and authorities are working to trace the boy’s contacts in an attempt to prevent the spread of a disease that is more deadly than covid-19.
Nipah disease — which the World Health Organization has listed as a priority disease because of its potential to generate a pandemic — has caused concern while India continues to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
When was the Nipah virus discovered and how did it spread?
The Nipah virus (NiV) was discovered during an outbreak among pig farmers in the Malaysia in 1999. It is believed that workers contracted the virus through infected herds and their secretions.
Fruit bats, also known as “flying foxes”, are the natural host of the Nipah virus, according to the World Health Organization. The virus can be transmitted from animals to humans – mainly from bats or pigs – or through contact between humans.
Fruit-eating fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family often live in date palm trees near markets, and the virus has spread from bats to humans through food – such as fruit and date palm juice – that has been contaminated by infected bats.
Domestic animals, including horses, cats and dogs, are also capable of catching and spreading the infection, but the virus is considered highly contagious among pigs, which can transmit the virus to humans who come in contact with their body fluids or tissues.
The deadly infection can also be transmitted through close human contact — the virus can spread from an infected individual to their family or caregivers through the person’s bodily fluids.
In 2018, India faced an outbreak that killed 17 of the 19 people who contracted the Nipah virus. In 2019, a new case was registered in the country, but quick action and widespread contact tracing prevented further dissemination.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of the disease are varied. Mild ones include fever and headaches, vomiting, sore throat and muscle aches.
In severe cases, patients can develop acute infections such as encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and respiratory problems. Other reported side effects include seizures, which can lead to coma, and personality changes.
As with the coronavirus, some who contract the virus remain asymptomatic.
How widespread is the Nipah virus?
Since it was first detected, outbreaks have also been reported in many Southeast Asian countries, including Singapore, Bangladesh and India.
In some parts of the Asia, new cases of the Nipah virus were reported “almost annually,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Is the Nipah virus more deadly than the coronavirus?
WHO estimates the Nipah virus mortality rate to be high — between 40 and 75% — making it much more deadly than covid-19, which has a mortality rate between 0.1% and 19%, depending on the country.
However, while the chances of dying from the Nipah virus once infected are high, Nipah is much less transmissible than the coronavirus.
How is it diagnosed and is there a cure or vaccine?
Health experts fear that, unlike the coronavirus, knowledge of the Nipah virus remains extremely low, making it more difficult to prevent, treat and diagnose. Due to lack of knowledge, the virus is not always suspected in patients with symptoms.
PCR tests using body fluid samples are primarily used to confirm a virus infection, along with antibody detection methods.
There is no sure cure for the Nipah virus and there is no vaccine that can help prevent the infection.
According to the WHO and CDC, the main treatment available is supportive care — that is, controlling symptoms and ensuring that those infected get as much rest and hydration as possible.
Close and unprotected physical contact with people infected with the Nipah virus should be avoided. People should wash their hands regularly after caring for or visiting sick people.
Ways to prevent infections from animals to humans include avoiding food contaminated by fruit bats — or washing and peeling fruit that may be affected — and avoiding unprotected contact with infected bats or pigs.
The CDC recommends that people living in areas where outbreaks have occurred regularly wash their hands with soap and water and avoid contact with the body fluids or blood of infected people.