India: Kerala on high alert for new Nipah virus

The southern Indian state of Kerala is quickly ramping up efforts to stop a potential outbreak of the deadly Nipah virus. The virus killed a 12-year-old boy in Kerala over the weekend, prompting stepped-up efforts to trace his contacts.

He was admitted to a hospital 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 been identifying, quarantining and testing people who may have come into contact with the young victim.

According to the state’s health minister, 188 people who came into contact with the boy had been identified by Monday. Of them, 20 were considered high-risk primary contacts, all of whom were being held under strict quarantine or hospitalized. 

Nipah, first identified during a late 1990s outbreak in Malaysia, can be spread by fruit bats, pigs and through human-to-human contact. There is no vaccine for the virus, which can cause raging fevers, convulsions and vomiting. The only treatment is supportive care to control complications and keep patients comfortable.



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