Nipah: Virus that is deadlier than COVID kills 12-year-old boy in India

·Freelance Writer
·4-min read
Kozhikode, India - September 08: (BILD ZEITUNG OUT) Road blockade due to Nipah affected areas at Chathamangalam panjayat on September 08, 2021 in Kozhikode, India. (Photo by C. K Thanseer/DeFodi images via Getty Images)
Road blockade due to Nipah affected areas at Chathamangalam panjayat in Kozhikode, India. (Getty)

Officials in India are battling to keep another virus at bay after it claimed the life of a 12-year-old boy.

India's southern Kerala state has seen a recent outbreak of the Nipah virus – that can be transmitted from human to human or via infected animals – with more infections confirmed over the weekend.

Following the death of the boy, Indian authorities ramped up efforts to trace all those who came into contact with him, with 188 people identified so far.

About 20 of those are considered high-risk because they are family members and are now under strict quarantine or in hospital.

Two healthcare workers who took care of the boy are now showing symptoms of Nipah, while Indian authorities have sealed off a two-miles radius around the boy's home.

Kozhikode, India - September 07: (BILD ZEITUNG OUT) Officials deposit a bat into a Plastic bag after catching it on September 07, 2021 in Kozhikode, India. The Nipah virus is carried mainly by fruit-eating bats. (Photo by C. K Thanseer/DeFodi images via Getty Images)
Officials deposit a bat – that can carry the Nipah virus – into a plastic bag after catching it in Kozhikode, India. (Getty)

The case of Nipah in Kerala come as India battles a surge in COVID cases with 43,263 more in the 24 hours up to Wednesday,

In Kerala alone, there were 30,196 new COVID cases in the same period, while deaths from COVID in the country increased by 338.

The Nipah virus – which was first discovered in 1999 in Malaysia – provokes symptoms including a fever and headache that can last anywhere between three days and two weeks, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Watch: Dengue and other fevers kill at least 50 in India

They say that infected people will also develop symptoms including fever, headaches, myalgia (muscle pain), vomiting and a sore throat.

This can be followed by dizziness, drowsiness, altered consciousness, and neurological signs that indicate acute encephalitis.

The WHO says Nipah is less transmissible that COVID, but estimates the case fatality rate to be between 40% and 75% – compared to about 2% for COVID.

There are currently no drugs or vaccines specific for Nipah, the WHO added.

Dr Rebecca Dutch, chair of the University of Kentucky's department of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, told The Sun that it is “extremely likely” the world will see more Nipah outbreaks

She said: “Nipah is one of the viruses that could absolutely be the cause of a new pandemic. Several things about Nipah are very concerning.

Kozhikode, India - September 06: (BILD ZEITUNG OUT) The office set up at the Government Guest House in Kozhikode to contain the spread of the Nipah virus on September 06, 2021 in Kozhikode, India. (Photo by C. K Thanseer/DeFodi images via Getty Images)
The office set up at the Government Guest House in Kozhikode to contain the spread of the Nipah virus. (DeFodi images via Getty Images)

“Many other viruses in that family (like measles) transmit well between people, so there is concern that a Nipah variant with increased transmission could arise.”

Dr Jonathan Epstein, vice president for science and outreach at the EcoHealth Alliance, added: “So far, Nipah is spread among close contact with an infected person, particularly someone with respiratory illness through droplets, and we generally don’t see large chains of transmission.

“However, given enough opportunity to spread from bats to people, and among people, a strain could emerge that is better adapted to spreading among people.”

MUMBAI, INDIA - SEPTEMBER 8: Beneficiaries wait in a queue to get inoculated against Covid-19 during a free vaccination camp at Matunga (West), on September 8, 2021 in Mumbai, India. (Photo by Pratik Chorge/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
People wait in a queue to get vaccinated against COVID during a free vaccination camp in Mumbai, India. (Getty)

Indian authorities are also battling a ‘mystery’ fever in the Northern Province of Uttar Pradesh, that has spread to more than 30,000 people, with at least 50 deaths reported.

The virus causes joint pains, headaches, dehydration and nausea, alongside severe rashes on limbs.

In its most severe form, the virus – which some believe may be due to 'scrub typhus', spread by infected mites – can lead to death.

A team of experts from Lucknow’s King George's Medical University are looking into the outbreak.

Health workers collect blood samples from goats in the neighborhood for testing after a 12-year-old boy died of the Nipah virus in Kozhikode, Kerala state, India, Tuesday, Sept.7, 2021. The southern Indian state is quickly ramping up efforts to stop a potential outbreak of the deadly Nipah virus, even as it continues to battle the highest number of coronavirus cases in the country. (AP Photo/Shijith. K)
Health workers collect blood samples from goats in the neighborhood for testing after a 12-year-old boy died of the Nipah virus in Kozhikode, Kerala state, India. (AP)

India Today reports: "Scrub typhus is a re-emerging… infection, earlier reported in India and other South Asian countries. It is a vector-borne disease.

"Its onset is marked by fever and rashes and it affects the central nervous system, cardiovascular system, renal, respiratory, and gastrointestinal systems. People with severe illness may develop organ failure and bleeding, which may lead to death."

There is no vaccine against it, but antibiotics are commonly used.

Additional reporting by Flic Everett

Watch: Indian woman recovers after 100 days with COVID

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