Authorities in India’s southern Kerala state are racing to contain an outbreak of the coronavirus behind the current global pandemic and is far more deadly, killed a 12-year-old boy in Kerala over the weekend, prompting stepped-up efforts to trace his contacts. New infections have been confirmed.. The virus, which is not related to the
The boy was admitted to a hospital a week ago with high fever. As his condition worsened and doctors suspected inflammation of his brain (encephalitis), his blood samples were sent to the National Institute of Virology, where tests confirmed a Nipah infection. He died early on Sunday.
Government authorities have stepped up contact tracing efforts, identifying, quarantining and testing people who may have come into contact with the young victim. According to the state’s health minister, Veena George, 188 people who came into contact with the boy had been identified by Monday. Of them, 20 were considered high-risk primary contacts — primarily his family members, all of whom were being held under strict quarantine or hospitalized.
Two healthcare workers who came into contact with the victim were already showing symptoms of Nipah infection by Monday. They were admitted to a hospital and their blood samples sent for testing.
Authorities sealed off the area within about a two-mile radius of the boy’s home, and they were screening people for symptoms in all adjoining districts of Kerala state. The neighboring state of Tamil Nadu was also on high alert for any suspect cases of fever.
This is the second time in three years that a Nipah virus outbreak has been reported in Kerala, which is also reeling under a high rate of COVID-19 infections. The state reports about 68% of India’s approximately 40,000 new cases every day.
What is Nipah virus?
Like the coronavirus, Nipah is a zoonotic virus, or one that is transmitted from animals to humans. Transmission generally occurs when humans either come into direct contact with the animals, or through consumption of contaminated food. But a high number of human-to-human transmission cases of Nipah have also been reported.
Fruit bats of the family Pteropodidae — commonly known as the “flying fox” — are the natural carriers of Nipah. They are known to transmit the virus to other animals including pigs, dogs, cats, goats, horses and sheep.
An infected human typically shows symptoms including fever and headache for anywhere between three days and two weeks, followed by a cough, sore throat and respiratory issues. The condition later progresses swiftly to swelling in the brain cells, leading to drowsiness, confusion, and then possible coma and death.