Media accounts in India are reporting a Nipah virus outbreak in Kozhikode, Kerala State. Several fatalities have been reported, including three from one family. On Sunday evening Kerala Health Services Director Dr R L Saritha said, “Today, we got the confirmation report from National Institute of Virology, Pune. We had sent four samples to the institute and three of them tested positive for Nipah virus.”


Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Shri J P Nadda  has assured all support to the Kerala Government and has directed a multi-disciplinary Central team from National Centre for Disease Control to immediately visit the district, and assist the State and closely monitor the situation. The team will reach Kerala today.

“We are closely monitoring the situation. I have spoken to Shri Alphons and Smt K Shailaja, Health Minister, Kerala and assured them all support of the Central government. I have also dispatched a Central team to assist the State government and initiate required steps,” the Union Health Minister said in a statement from Geneva.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), consumption of fruits or fruit products (e.g. raw date palm juice) contaminated with urine or saliva from infected fruitbats are the typical source of infection for Nipah. Fruit bats of the family Pteropodidae – particularly species belonging to the Pteropus genus – are the natural hosts for Nipah virus. There is no apparent disease in fruit bats.

In more recent outbreaks of the disease, person-to-person transmission has been seen in Bangladesh and India.

Related: What is Nipah virus?

The disease in humans can range from asymptomatic infection to fatal encephalitis. Encephalitis and seizures occur in severe cases, progressing to coma within 24 to 48 hours.

The case fatality rate is estimated at 40% to 75%; however, this rate can vary by outbreak depending on local capabilities for surveillance investigations, according to the WHO.

Those who survive acute encephalitis make a full recovery, but around 20% are left with residualneurological consequences such as persistent convulsions and personality changes.

Pteropus fruit bat Image/Video Screen Shot
Pteropus fruit bat
Image/Video Screen Shot

There is no treatment or vaccine available for either people or animals.

Nipah virus was first detected in Malaysia in 1998 but in recent years, Bangladesh has been the hotspot for the infectious disease.

Related: The World’s Deadliest Viruses