India on alert as deadly Nipah virus claims victims | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 22.05.2018
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India on alert as deadly Nipah virus claims victims

The virus carried by fruit bats has killed at least 10 people in the southern state of Kerala. Indian authorities have dispatched medical teams to the area, where nearly 100 people have been quarantined.

The deadly Nipah virus has claimed the lives of nearly a dozen people in southern India, health officials confirmed on Tuesday, with several more said to be in a critical condition.

India's Health Ministry has dispatched teams of experts and doctors to the area to deal with the outbreak.

Southern India on high alert:

  • Authorities have issued a health warning in Kerala and the border areas of neighboring state of Tamil Nadu.
  • More than 90 people remain in quarantine.
  • The first death occurred on Friday in the district of Kozhikode, previously known as Calicut, a popular tourist destination.
  • At least 10 people have died in the southern state of Kerala.
  • A nurse caring for patients infected with the deadly virus also died from the disease.

'A new situation'

According to Kerala's health minister, K.K. Shailaja, 18 people were screened for the virus, of which 12 tested positive, including those dead.

"This is a new situation for us. We have no prior experience in dealing with the Nipah virus," said K.K. Shailaja, health minister of the state. "We are hopeful we can put a stop to the outbreak."

Three members of the same family are among the fatalities. Dead bats were found in a well of the family's house.

What is Nipah virus? Nipah virus spreads from animals to humans. There is no vaccine for the virus which is fatal in 70 percent of the cases, according the World Health Organization. The WHO has named Nipah as one of the eight priority diseases that could cause an epidemic, alongside Ebola and Zika.

How is Nipah transmitted? The WHO says fruit bats are the natural host of the virus. In the past, Nipah has been transmitted to humans by pigs — the intermediate hosts — or by fruits contaminated by infected bats.

Symptoms of Nipah: The virus, named after the Malaysian village where it was first discovered, can cause raging fevers, drowsiness, convulsions and vomiting. The virus can cause encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain, the WHO says. The usual treatment is supportive care.

Previous outbreaks: The virus claimed its first known victims in late 1990s in Malaysia and Singapore. In India, the disease was first reported in 2001 and again six years later. The two outbreaks claimed more than 50 lives. Bangladesh has been worst hit with more than 100 fatalities in outbreaks in 2001 and 2004.

ap/kms (AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa)

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