In response to the outbreak of the rare and deadly Nipah virus, which has claimed the lives of two individuals in the southern Indian state of Kerala, authorities have taken swift measures. Some schools, offices, and public transport services have been temporarily shut down as officials scramble to contain the spread of the virus.
Currently, an adult and a child are receiving treatment in the hospital for Nipah virus infection, while over 130 individuals have been tested for the virus. Nipah virus is transmitted through direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected bats, pigs, or humans.
Kerala’s Health Minister, Veena George, emphasized the importance of early contact tracing and isolation of individuals displaying symptoms of the virus. She also noted that the strain of the virus is under examination. To control the medical crisis, restrictions on public movement have been imposed in certain areas of the state.
This recent outbreak marks the fourth instance of Nipah virus in Kerala since 2018. In response, authorities have established containment zones in at least seven villages within the Kozhikode district. Stringent isolation protocols have been implemented, and medical personnel who have had direct contact with infected individuals are placed under quarantine.
The initial victim of the virus was a small landholder from the village of Marutonkara in the Kozhikode district. The victim’s daughter and brother-in-law, both of whom were infected, are currently in isolation, with other family members and neighbors undergoing testing. The second fatality was a result of contact with the first victim in the hospital, according to preliminary investigations. Notably, the two individuals were not related.
To further investigate the outbreak, three federal teams, including experts from the National Virology Institute, are set to arrive in Kerala for additional testing and analysis.
Nipah virus was first identified in 1999 during an outbreak in Malaysia and Singapore among pig farmers and individuals closely associated with the animals. In Kerala, the first Nipah outbreak resulted in 21 out of 23 infected individuals losing their lives. Subsequent outbreaks in 2019 and 2021 claimed two more lives in the region.
A Reuters investigation conducted in May highlighted parts of Kerala as being among the global hotspots for potential outbreaks of bat viruses. Extensive deforestation and urbanization have brought humans and wildlife into closer contact, increasing the risk of such viral transmissions.