India Struggles to Contain Nipah Virus Outbreak

Authorities in the southern Indian state of Kerala raced to contain a potential outbreak of the Nipah virus on Monday while the state battles the increasing number of  COVID-19 cases. 

The Indian government put Kerala on high alert after a 12-year-old boy died from a Nipah virus infection over the weekend.

Authorities stepped up contact tracing and testing efforts and quarantined about 188 people who have come into contact with the boy, including two health workers from a Kozhikode hospital already showing symptoms of Nipah infection on Monday. 

On Tuesday, health minister Veena George confirmed that the tests of the eight primary contacts came back negative.

“That these eight immediate contacts tested negative is a great relief,” George said.

George added that 48 contacts were still at a hospital, including the eight that tested negative, for monitoring and tests. 

Authorities sealed the area within a two-mile radius of the boy’s home and screened people for symptoms in all neighboring districts of Kerala. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Nipah virus has an estimated fatality rate of 40% to 75%, making it deadlier than the coronavirus, which has a mortality rate of 2%.

There is no vaccine for the virus, which can cause raging fevers, convulsions, and vomiting. The only treatment is supportive care to control complications and keep patients comfortable, Aljazeera reported. 

Kerala was hit with Nipah in 2018, killing 17 people out of the 18 cases. 

The infections were all traced back to fruit bats found dead in the water of a family’s well.

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