Nipah being a rare although a serious bat-borne virus which causes fever, vomiting and respiratory infections in humans. Multiple other cases can be seen as seizures and encephalitis, inflammation of the brain, and result in a coma as well. The fatality rate of Nipha virus has been between 40-75%, as per the World Health Organization (WHO) statement. Till date it has no known vaccine, and the usual treatment is to provide supportive care for this virus. Recently, in Kerala some deaths have been reported due to the outbreak of Nipah virus due to which mass testing to halt the spread of the deadly Nipah virus have been in process in Kerala. Its is the 4th outbreak of this virus in Kerala since 2018.
Nipah Virus in Kerala
In recent times, the Indian state of Kerala has found itself in the midst of a concerning health challenge – the Nipah virus outbreak. This infectious disease has reemerged in Kerala, sparking alarm and swift responses from health authorities. With cases on the rise and efforts to contain the virus underway, it’s essential to delve into the details of this situation and understand the impact it’s having on the region. In this article, you will get the recent updates regarding Nipah Virus in Kerala 2023 in detail.
Nipah Virus in India 2023 Latest News
In 2023, the Indian state of Kerala is facing its fourth outbreak of the Nipah virus (NiV), which has resulted in two deaths on August 30 and September 11. This outbreak is centred in the Kozhikode district, where authorities have implemented containment measures in several villages. Currently, there are six confirmed cases.
What is Nipah Virus?
The Nipah virus is a disease that can spread from animals to humans. It was first identified in Malaysia in 1999 among pig farmers. Since then, outbreaks have occurred in several countries, including India, Bangladesh, Singapore, the Philippines, and now, in Kerala. The virus can be transmitted through direct contact with infected animals like bats and pigs or their bodily fluids. It can also spread through contaminated food or from person to person.
Current Strain of Nipah Virus in Kerala
- The current strain in Kerala is believed to be the Bangladesh variant. While it’s considered less infectious, it can still transmit from human to human.
- Unfortunately, there is no specific medicine or vaccine to treat the infection, so medical care focuses on managing symptoms and preventive measures.
- Efforts to combat the outbreak include the delivery of antibodies by the Indian Council of Medical Research, as well as the deployment of a mobile laboratory to test samples in Kozhikode.
- A team of experts has been sent to help contain the virus. A contact list of potentially exposed individuals is being monitored, with some considered at higher risk.
- To prevent the spread of the virus, schools, colleges, and other educational institutions in Kozhikode have been temporarily closed. Additionally, gatherings like Friday prayers have been suspended, and people are advised not to consume liquor collected in open vessels from palm trees.
Kerala often reports virus outbreaks early due to factors like its forested areas, heavy monsoon rains, and urbanization. These factors bring animals closer to human settlements, increasing the risk of zoonotic diseases like Nipah. Climate change and migration also contribute to the spread of diseases. Kerala’s robust surveillance system and high literacy rates have helped in the early detection and management of diseases.
Nipah Virus in Kerala Lockdown Situation
As the Nipah virus cases escalate in Kerala, the state government has taken significant steps to contain the outbreak. These measures include the temporary closure of select schools and offices and the designation of seven villages as containment zones. The Kerala Health Department has issued a high alert following the unfortunate deaths of two individuals in Kozhikode linked to the Nipah virus.
However, despite these stringent measures, the Kerala government has not yet declared a full-scale statewide lockdown. The possibility of a statewide lockdown is being contemplated if the situation continues to deteriorate with an increasing number of infections. This underscores the seriousness of the Nipah virus outbreak in the state and the government’s commitment to addressing the crisis.
As of the latest update, there are three active cases of Nipah virus in Kerala, with contact tracing efforts underway. The Health Minister of Kerala, Veena George, has provided information about the number of contacts identified, with some classified as high-risk and others as low-risk. The government has also established 19 monitoring committees to oversee and manage the outbreak.
Additionally, telemedicine facilities have been implemented to provide medical assistance to those in need, and the locations of deceased individuals have been disclosed to the public. High-risk individuals have been advised to stay in their residences, and a designated call centre is available for reporting symptoms. If isolated individuals develop symptoms, they will be promptly relocated to medical college facilities for further evaluation and care.
The situation in Kerala remains dynamic, and the government is actively monitoring and responding to the evolving Nipah virus outbreak to protect public health.
Nipah Virus in Kerala Symptoms
Nipah virus infection in Kerala, like in other regions, can cause a range of symptoms. These symptoms can vary in severity, and not everyone who contracts the virus will necessarily exhibit all of them. The symptoms of Nipah virus infection can include:
- Fever: Nipah virus infection often begins with a sudden onset of high fever, which is one of the hallmark symptoms of the disease.
- Headaches: Headaches are a common symptom and may be severe in some cases.
- Muscle Pain: Infected individuals may experience muscle pain or myalgia.
- Vomiting: Nausea and vomiting are common symptoms and can be quite severe.
- Sore Throat: A sore throat is another early symptom of Nipah virus infection.
- Respiratory Symptoms: Some individuals may develop respiratory symptoms such as cough and difficulty breathing.
- Drowsiness or Disorientation: As the infection progresses, individuals may become drowsy or disoriented, which can lead to confusion.
- Mental Confusion: Severe cases of Nipah virus infection can lead to mental confusion, altered consciousness, and even coma.
- Seizures: In some cases, individuals may experience seizures, which are abnormal electrical activities in the brain.
It’s important to note that Nipah virus infection can progress rapidly, and severe cases can lead to encephalitis, which is inflammation of the brain. Encephalitis can result in more serious neurological symptoms, including seizures and altered mental states.
The incubation period for Nipah virus, which is the time between exposure to the virus and the onset of symptoms, can vary but typically ranges from four to 14 days.
Since Nipah virus infection can be severe and even fatal, anyone who experiences these symptoms and has had potential exposure to the virus, such as contact with infected animals or individuals, should seek immediate medical attention. Early diagnosis and medical care are crucial for managing the disease and improving the chances of recovery. Additionally, it’s essential to take preventive measures, such as avoiding contact with potentially infected animals and practising good hygiene, to reduce the risk of Nipah virus transmission.
Nipah Virus in Kerala History
The first Nipah outbreak in Kerala occurred in 2018, catching health authorities off-guard. The virus claimed 17 lives out of 18 confirmed cases. It spread among humans before being identified, and the state had limited knowledge of how to handle it. Social distancing, contact tracing, and isolation became new concepts in Kerala’s society during this outbreak.
In June 2019, a Nipah case was reported in Ernakulam, marking the second outbreak in Kerala. The consecutive outbreaks prompted the health department to work on a systematic approach. Guidelines for Nipah virus infection control were issued, covering diagnosis, surveillance, treatment, and sample collection. A resource group of senior doctors held brainstorming meetings, and protocols were refined with World Health Organization (WHO) involvement.
In 2020, Kerala did not report any Nipah cases, but the 2019 protocol was updated and shared across the healthcare system. In 2021, a 12-year-old boy died from Nipah in Kozhikode amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The public’s familiarity with quarantining and isolation due to COVID-19 protocols facilitated Nipah control, with the virus being confined to a single case that year.
Over the years, the state improved its ability to detect Nipah. In 2018, confirmation came from labs outside the state. In 2019, Kerala set up its own testing facilities. In 2023, Nipah was detected in Kozhikode with rapid testing, and the state established virology labs and mobile testing units to speed up diagnosis.
In 2023, Nipah re-emerged in Kozhikode. The health department promptly responded by collecting fever data and conducting surveillance. Samples were tested locally, and results were confirmed by the National Institute of Virology in Pune. The state continues to manage the 2023 outbreak based on the guidelines established in 2021, building on its experience from previous outbreaks.