Health alert in Kerala as Nipah virus returns, 2 unnatural deaths reported

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Health alert in Kerala as Nipah virus returns, 2 unnatural deaths reported (Image: Wikimedia Commons)
Health alert in Kerala as Nipah virus returns, 2 unnatural deaths reported (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

New Delhi : The Kerala health department has issued a health alert in the state after two unnatural deaths were reported under suspicion of Nipah virus. State Health Minister Veena George called for a high-level meeting to discuss the matter and review the situation.

According to the health department, 2 unnatural deaths have been reported in a private hospital after the patients were admitted due to high fever. It is suspected that they were infected by Nipah virus.

Before this, several deaths were reported in the state due to Nipah in 2018 and 2021. The first Nipah virus (NiV) outbreak in south India was reported from Kozhikode on May 19, 2018.

The World Health Organization has tagged Nipah virus as zoonotic disease that is transmitted to humans via animals and then in between people via contaminated food or person to person touch.

Among infected people, it causes a range of illnesses, from asymptomatic (subclinical) infection to acute respiratory illness and fatal encephalitis.

How Nipah Virus Got Its Name:

The Nipah virus derived its name from a Malaysian village where the initial cases of this previously unknown disease were identified in 1998-99. Subsequently, Singapore also reported its first cases of Nipah virus infection.

How Nipah Virus Spreads:

In general, the Nipah virus is considered to have a natural host in the fruit bat, also known as flying foxes, belonging to the Pteropodidae family. These bats inhabit trees and are commonly found in close proximity to "markets, places of worship, schools, and tourist spots" throughout South and Southeast Asia.

How Nipah Virus Infects Individuals:

The Nipah virus can spread through various means, with the primary mode of transmission believed to be through the consumption of fruits or the consumption of raw date palm juice, as fruit bats are known to favor date palm trees and can contaminate them with their saliva or urine. Notably, cases of Nipah virus infection have been observed in individuals who climb trees inhabited by bats.

Additionally, transmission can occur through an intermediate host. During the initial Nipah virus outbreak in Malaysia-Singapore in 1998-99, it was suspected that the virus spread to humans through contact with sick pigs or their contaminated tissues. The World Health Organization (WHO) suggested that transmission likely occurred through unprotected exposure to secretions from the pigs or direct contact with tissues from diseased animals.