Authorities in Kerala have confirmed the existence of Nipah virus, which has so far claimed five lives, including three from the same family. This was after one more person succumbed to the virus early on Monday in Kozhikode district of Kerala.
Lini, 31, staff nurse at the Perambra Taluk Hospital, was under treatment at the intensive care unit of the Institute of Chest Diseases of the Government Medical College Hospital, Kozhikode. She was on duty when one of the earlier deceased had undergone treatment there, reported The Hindu.
Three from a family from Sooppikkada village in Changaroth gram panchayat limits near Perambra, Kozhikode, died due to encephalitis and myocarditis since 5 May. Three others, including Lini, who were in close contact with the deceased passed away, suspectedly due to similar infection.
“We have sent blood and body fluid samples of all suspected cases for confirmation to National Institute of Virology in Pune. So far, we got confirmation that three deaths were because of Nipah,” Kerala’s health secretary Rajeev Sadanandan was quoted by BBC.
However, a report by Manorama website said that As many as 16 people, including a nurse, have died in Kozhikode and Malappuram districts of Kerala within two weeks, triggering panic over the spread of a deadly virus.
Nipah virus (NiV) infection is a newly-emerging zoonosis (a disease which can be transmitted to humans from animals) that causes severe disease in both animals and humans. Nipah virus is also “top of the list” of 10 priority diseases that the WHO has identified as potentials for the next major outbreak.
The natural host of the virus are fruit bats of the Pteropodidae Family, Pteropus genus. Experts say that fallen fruits found under trees such as mangoes, almonds, chikkoo and papaya to be avoided.
The natural hosts of henipaviruses are fruit bats (Pteropus species, also called ‘flying foxes’). For Hendra virus, the outbreaks initially occurred in horses, which are the main intermediate hosts, through the ingestion of food contaminated with the droppings, urine or other excretions of infected fruit bats. However, the bats themselves do not show any clinical signs of illness. Transmission of HeV to man happens through close contact with ill, dying and dead horses – probably via their respiratory secretions and urine. No bats-to-human or human-to-human transmission has been documented so far.
NiV was identified back in 1998 when an outbreak of the virus took place in Malaysia. However, at that time, pigs were the intermediate hosts. This is associated with encephalitis. After five to 14 days of being exposed to the virus, three to 14 days of fever and headache is observed. Drowsiness, disorientation and mental confusion are some of the common symptoms of the disease.