India outbreak fears: Hundreds isolating as bat virus 'more deadly than Covid' detected

Nipah virus: Doctor explains the signs and symptoms

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The southern state of Kerala is quickly ramping up efforts to stop a potential outbreak of the deadly Nipah virus. Experts have started contact tracing and isolating hundreds of people who came into contact with a boy who died in hospital on Sunday. On Tuesday, the state health minister told reporters that the samples of eight primary contacts have come back negative.

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

Nipah, which was first identified in the Nineties, can be spread by bats, pigs and through human-to-human contact.

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.

The virus has an estimated fatality rate of between 40 percent and 75 percent, which local media says “make it far more deadly than coronavirus”.

There are fears of a virus outbreak in India

There are fears of a virus outbreak in India (Image: PTI)

Experts have started isolating hundreds

Experts have started isolating hundreds (Image: GETTY)

According to reports, experts in Kozhikode, Malappuram and Kannur are now on high alert.

Neighbouring areas of Tamil Nadu are also said to have increased vigilance to screen people with Nipah-like symptoms.

Ms George said that more samples will be tested today in the hope of stopping an outbreak.

A total of 48 individuals, including those that tested negative, are being monitored at a hospital.

Officials will be carrying out door-to-door surveillance to identify any more cases.

India has deployed a team of experts to help local officials trace contacts.

It is feared to be more deadly than Covid

It is feared to be more deadly than Covid (Image: GETTY)

The state dealt with Nipah in 2018, when more than a dozen people died from the virus.

This time around, the concern is compounded by the fact that the state has grabbed national headlines in recent weeks for seeing the highest number of daily COVID-19 cases across India.

On Monday, Kerala registered nearly 20,000 COVID-19 infections out of India’s daily total of 31,222.

While cases across the country have declined after a devastating surge earlier this year, the situation in Kerala remains concerning, with experts warning that the state cannot let its guard down.

A 12-year-old boy died at the weekend

A 12-year-old boy died at the weekend (Image: GETTY)

More health officials are now on hand to help

More health officials are now on hand to help (Image: GETTY)

The Nipah virus causes a range of illnesses. Some patients remain asymptomatic, but others exhibit acute respiratory symptoms and fatal encephalitis.

The disease is often carried by fruit bats of the family Pteropodidae – particularly species belonging to the Pteropus genus – who are the natural hosts of the Nipah virus.

It can be transmitted between animals, animals to humans via contaminated food and among humans via direct contact.

A person infected with Nipah will initially develop symptoms like fever, headaches, myalgia (muscle pain), vomiting and sore throat.

The WHO says: “This can be followed by dizziness, drowsiness, altered consciousness and neurological signs that indicate acute encephalitis.”

Harry Byrne

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