A Medical personnel wearing protective clothing comes out of a quarantined hospital in Kochi, Kerala, India during a Nipah outbreak on 6 August 2019. EFE-EPA FILE/Prakash Elamakkara

South India on alert after 2 deaths due to deadly Nipah virus

New Delhi, Sep 13 (EFE).- Authorities in India’s southern state of Kerala sounded a high alert on Wednesday after they confirmed a fresh outbreak of the deadly Nipah (NIV) virus in the state, which has killed at least two people so far, even as containment measures have been enforced.

Authorities shut down some schools and offices in at least seven villages in the Kozhikode district, and the entire area has been declared a containment zone, Kerala’s health minister Veena George told lawmakers in the regional assembly.

After calling an emergency meeting to assess the situation on Tuesday night, George said that the government was increasing the epidemic response capacity in Kozhikode, where mobile units will be deployed to strengthen facilities at hospitals and medical centers, while epidemiological studies will also be launched.

The state has also issued a series of recommendations to prevent infection, along with a containment plan in case someone develops symptoms for the virus, which has so far killed two people, India’s federal health minister Mansukh Mandaviya said in a press conference.

The virus was first detected in India in June 2018, when 18 confirmed cases and 17 deaths were reported across two districts of Kerala: Kozhikode and Mallapuram.

Nipah, similar to Hendra, is a zoonotic virus first discovered in Malaysia in 1998 and is primarily transmitted through fruit bats.

According to the WHO, the initial symptoms of the disease include high fever, headache and changes in behavior while, at a later stage, the disease can cause encephalitis.

The virus is transmitted through bodily fluids, such as saliva and blood, and since there are no vaccines against the virus, doctors can only treat the symptoms, resulting in a fatality rate higher than 70 percent.

The WHO has included Nipah – along with Ebola and Zika – on its list of diseases to prioritize for research because of its epidemic potential. EFE