After two “unnatural” fatalities related to fever were recorded at a private hospital on Monday, the Kerala Health Department has issued an alert in the Kozhikode district. In a statement, the health department said that the two fatalities are suspected to be due to the ‘Nipah Virus’ and the relatives of one of the deceased are in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
Nipah outbreak in Kerala
A high-level meeting was held and chaired by Kerala Health Minister Veena George in this regard. Earlier in 2018, there was a Nipah outbreak in the Kozhikode and Malappuram districts and later in 2021 also, a case of Nipah was reported in Kozhikode. The first Nipah virus outbreak in south India was reported from Kozhikode on May 19, 2018.
Nipah causes range of illness
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Nipah virus infection is a zoonotic illness that is transmitted to people from animals and can also be transmitted through contaminated food or directly from person-to-person. Among infected people, it causes a range of illnesses, from asymptomatic (subclinical) infection to acute respiratory illness and fatal encephalitis.
Know about Nipah virus
According to experts, Nipah is a paramyxovirus. It is related to a human virus, human parainfluenza virus, one of the handful of viruses that cause the common cold. Its natural host is the fruit bat, the large and small flying foxes which are distributed across South and Southeast Asia. All cases of human infection with the Nipah virus to date have been due to direct or indirect contact with infected bats.
The infection in bats is sub-clinical, so goes largely unnoticed. The virus is excreted in the urine which, via grooming and crowding, ensures transfer within and between colonies. Fruit or fruit juice contaminated by bat urine is the principal route of virus transmission to people, they said. In the cases of human infection, so far, there has been limited spread to only close contacts of the primary infected individual, such as family members or, if the person is hospitalised, hospital staff.
It should be noted here that general transmission does not occur, mainly because the proteins the Nipah virus uses to enter cells, the receptors, are concentrated in the brain and central nervous tissues. Nipah infection leads to death by acute encephalitis in most cases as the virus replicates best in the tissues where it is easy for the virus to enter the cells.
(With inputs from PTI)