Kerala authorities race to contain Nipah virus after child dies

More than 200 people suspected of contact with the boy are being contained and monitored

Health workers collect blood samples from a goat to test for the virus after a 12-year-old boy died of the Nipah virus in Kozhikode, Kerala state, India, Tuesday, September 7, 2021. AP
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Authorities in Kerala are racing to trace people who may have been in contact with a child who died of the Nipah virus.

Officials have placed dozens of people under quarantine who came into contact with a 12 year-old boy who died on Sunday after being infected.

More than 200 contacts of the boy have been identified and are being monitored. Most of them are healthcare workers.

About 30 people, including six of those who were symptomatic, have so far been cleared.

Nipah is a deadly disease that presents with respiratory symptoms, killing up to 75 per cent of those infected.

Eight samples of parents and healthcare workers were sent to Pune on Sunday. They had interacted with the boy closely. So it is a huge relief to get negative results
Veena George, Kerala health minister

"The negative results give us a huge relief," said Health Minister Veena George at a press conference in Kozhikode.

"Eight samples of parents and healthcare workers were sent to Pune on Sunday. They had interacted with the boy closely. So it is a huge relief to get negative results,” she said.

Like Covid-19, which has ravaged Kerala, Nipah is a zoonotic disease that is believed to originate in bats.

In Nipah’s case, fruit bats of the family Pteropodidae are the natural hosts. They do not appear to suffer illness as a result.

In people, respiratory issues are common in the early stages, as well as fever, headache and drowsiness. It can result in encephalitis, or inflammation in the brain. Symptoms begin five to 14 days after exposure.

This handout photo released on May 21, 2018 by the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation shows the Rodrigues Fruit Bat on Rodrigues in the Western Indian Ocean on April 23, 2018. 
Animal and plant species are vanishing -- sometimes before we know they exist -- at an accelerating pace, but conservationists are pushing back against the juggernaut of mass extinction. From captive breeding to satellite tracking; restoring habitats to removing predators; shaming multinationals to nursing baby pandas and orangutans -- in all these ways, scientists and other have given doomed creatures a second chance.  / AFP PHOTO / MAURITIAN WILDLIFE FOUNDATION / Jacques de Speville / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / MAURITIAN WILDLIFE FOUNDATION/JACQUES DE SPEVILLE" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

It is known to spread among those in close contact with patients, such as family and caregivers.

There is no specific treatment and no vaccine.

In 2018, 17 of 18 people died after being affected by a Nipah outbreak in Kerala The outbreak is though to have begun after the virus spread from bats, its host, to people via fruit.

Experts believe the latest outbreak probably started in a similar way, after the boy ate rambutan, a type of fruit that grows on a tree on the family’s property.

A team from the Animal Husbandry department visited the victim’s house to collect samples. They confirmed the presence of bats near by.

Districts bordering Kerala are being asked to look out for people arriving from the state with symptoms such as fever, severe weakness, headache, respiratory distress, cough, vomiting, muscle pain, convulsions and diarrhoea.

The virus was first identified after an outbreak among pig farmers in Malaysia in the late 1990s. No cases have been identified there since.

But it has caused almost annual outbreaks in Bangladesh since it was first discovered there in 2001, according to the World Health Organisation.

During the 2018 outbreak, the UAE banned the sale of fruit imported from Kerala.

Updated: September 09, 2021, 4:32 AM