The Kerala Health Department issued an alert after the death of two people suspected to be caused by the Nipah virus in Kozhikode district.
Health Minister Veena George said, “Nipah is a suspect. Relatives of one of the victims are receiving treatment under intensive care in the hospital. A high-level meeting has been held to assess the situation.”
The samples collected from the deceased and those in isolation have been sent for testing at the National Institute of Virology.
In India, the first Nipah virus disease outbreak was reported in Siliguri town in 2001, followed by a second outbreak in Nadia district in 2007, both in West Bengal state. In 2018, an outbreak was reported in Kozhikode district, and in 2019, another outbreak in Kochi district, both in Kerala state. Bats from the Pteropus spp. were the probable source of the 2018 outbreak in Kerala state. In 2021, a death due to Nipah virus infection was reported in Kozhikode district.
Nipah virus disease is an emerging zoonotic disease of public health importance in South East Asia, where Pteropus fruit bats, the natural host of the virus, are widespread. It was first identified during an outbreak in Malaysia in 1998, and all subsequent outbreaks have occurred in parts of Asia (India, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Singapore). Transmission can occur from direct contact with infected animals, consuming contaminated food products or through close contact with an infected person. Previous outbreaks had a seasonal pattern with occurrence during winter and spring, associated with several factors such as the breeding season of the bats, increased virus shedding by bats and fruit harvesting season. The case fatality ratio ranges from 40 to 100%.