The state of Kerala, in South India, is on the alert to prevent the spread of the Nipah virus, which has a mortality rate of up to 75%. Concern was heightened after a 12-year-old boy died of the infection at a hospital in Kozhikode City. According to the American TV network CBS, the boy sought medical care after suffering from a high fever for a week. The state of health worsened, developing into severe brain swelling.
The Nipah virus can present with respiratory symptoms, including coughing, sore throat, body aches, fatigue and encephalitis, as well as swelling of the brain that can cause seizures and death. The disease is a concern at the WHO (World Health Organization) due to its pandemic potential due to the high chances of transmission. As the virus is incubated in the person for 45 days before the first symptoms, there is a high risk of the infected person passing it on to others, even without knowing they are sick.
This caused Indian health authorities to track and isolate 188 people who might have come into contact with the dead boy with Nipah, including his family. Of these, 20 are considered high risk. The Associated Press news agency reported that eight tests from people with close contact with the boy have already come back negative.
The Nipah virus is among the top ten most dangerous viruses known and has already caused some outbreaks in Asia among humans. It is normally transmitted by fruit bats, pigs, and human-to-human contact. During the first outbreak in Malaysia, most of those infected were contaminated by direct contact with sick pigs. With a mortality rate ranging from 40% to 75% of those infected, it has so far caused only a few outbreaks in countries like Malaysia and Bangladesh. Despite this, the WHO (World Health Organization) is concerned about a possible mutation that increases its transmissibility and has placed it on the priority list for the development of vaccines and treatments.
Asia has a large number of emerging infectious diseases. Tropical regions have a rich biodiversity, which means that they are also home to a large reservoir of potential pathogens, increasing the risk of a new virus. Rising human populations and increasing contact between people and wildlife in these regions also increase the risk.
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