A health official in India is reportedly vowing that an outbreak of the deadly Nipah virus (NiV) in the country’s southern Kerala state is under control despite more than 1,200 people being added to a list of close contacts.
Kerala Health Minister Veena George said Monday there have been no new reported cases of the virus, and 61 samples taken from high-risk contacts, such as nurses, have come back negative, according to The Hindustan Times.
There have been six confirmed cases of the virus so far, two of which have resulted in deaths.
“A very positive thing is that all four patients under treatment are now stable and the condition of [a] 9-year-old boy, who was on ventilator support, is improving clinically,” George told the Press Trust of India. “He is now out of ventilator support and is being given minimal oxygen support.”
A total of 1,233 people have been placed on a list of being in contact with people who are infected with the virus, The Hindustan Times reported.
India Today also reported that restrictions in nine containment zones within the Kerala state have been eased, but masks and social distancing are still required.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes the Nipah virus as being zoonotic — meaning that it can be transmitted from animals to people — and that fruit bats are the primary carriers of it in nature.
“Nipah virus is also known to cause illness in pigs and people,” the CDC said, adding, “Infection with NiV is associated with encephalitis (swelling of the brain) and can cause mild to severe illness and even death.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) said the Nipah virus fatality rate is estimated at 40% to 75%, but that it can “vary by outbreak depending on local capabilities for epidemiological surveillance and clinical management.”
“Infected people initially develop symptoms including fever, headaches, myalgia (muscle pain), vomiting and sore throat,” WHO also said. “This can be followed by dizziness, drowsiness, altered consciousness, and neurological signs that indicate acute encephalitis. Some people can also experience atypical pneumonia and severe respiratory problems, including acute respiratory distress. Encephalitis and seizures occur in severe cases, progressing to coma within 24 to 48 hours.”
The CDC said the virus is transmitted through direct contact with infected animals or humans and their bodily fluids, or by eating food products that have been contaminated by animals.
“Treatment is limited to supportive care, including rest, hydration, and treatment of symptoms as they occur,” according to the CDC.
A series of NiV outbreaks in India and Bangladesh killed 62 people in 2001 and 21 people in India’s Kerala state in 2018, Reuters reports.
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