The Kerala Health Department has issued an alert following two “unnatural deaths” suspected to be linked to the Nipah virus (NiV) in Kozhikode district. These two fatalities occurred at a private hospital within the district, raising concerns.
Kerala’s Health Minister, Veena George, has reported that a relative of one of the deceased individuals is currently in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) due to a similar ailment. In response to these developments, Minister George convened a high-level meeting to assess the situation in the district.
It’s noteworthy that Kerala has previously experienced two Nipah virus outbreaks, occurring in 2018 and 2021. The first outbreak saw a total of 23 cases reported, with 17 people tragically succumbing to the zoonotic virus.
Understanding Nipah Virus
The Nipah virus infection is a zoonotic illness, meaning it can be transmitted from animals to humans. Additionally, it can spread via contaminated food or direct human-to-human contact. Fruit bats are recognized as the carriers of this virus, making it a severe threat to both human and animal populations.
The virus can also cause severe diseases in animals, particularly pigs, leading to substantial economic losses for farmers.
Symptoms and Treatment
Symptoms of Nipah virus infection range from asymptomatic (no noticeable symptoms) or subclinical infection to acute respiratory illness. In severe cases, it can result in fatal encephalitis, which is characterized by:
- Sore throat
- Muscle pain
- Swelling of the brain
- Headache and stiff neck
- Sensitivity to light
- Mental confusion and seizures
While there is no specific treatment available for the Nipah virus, individuals can take precautions to minimize the risk. These measures include avoiding fruits that have fallen on the ground, refraining from feeding pigs, and taking steps to keep fruit bats away from human environments.