Nipah is back, follow protocols to stay safe
This year’s outbreak has thrown more challenges to the health authorities as there are two zoonotic cases unlike in the other outbreaks when there was one patient zero.
The Nipah virus has struck Kerala for the fourth time, killing two people and leaving seven others critically infected. The two victims were men in their 40s from Kozhikode district. Seven villages have been declared containment zones and the authorities have shut some schools and offices in the district. This year’s outbreak has thrown more challenges to the health authorities as there are two zoonotic cases unlike in the other outbreaks when there was one patient zero. The virus can be transmitted through contaminated food and contact with an infected person. The mortality rate is high because there is no medicine or vaccine available to treat it yet.
A study by the Indian Council of Medical Research conducted in July this year confirmed that there are traces of the deadly virus among bats in eight states including Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. But it is only in Kerala that it has infected humans. The virus first struck the state in 2018, killing 17 people. But the death toll in 2019 and 2021 was limited to two and one respectively, as the state’s health system remained alert and contained the outbreaks.
Despite several attempts to trace the source of the virus since 2018, no precise scientific explanation has been found. Numerous hypotheses—including the high density of population in Kerala, its geography, and intense rain patterns—have been floated. However, the exact reason why the state is more prone than others remains unknown. While it is impossible to erase traces of the virus among bats, it is important to find out how it is spreading to humans. That information is critical for breaking the chain of transmission.
The Central and state governments have been working together since the first case was suspected. A team of experts from the National Centre for Disease Control are parked in the state to help. Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya is also learnt to be in regular touch with Kerala Health Minister Veena George. It is important that all the stakeholders concerned, including the people of the state and the media, follow all the protocols necessary at such a time. The public’s alertness is important in containing any epidemic. Washing hands, wearing masks and gloves, and eating clean food would go a long
way in preventing a conflagration. There is no need to panic, but caution is essential.