Health officials in Kerala have confirmed the death of ten people in cases of the deadly Nipah virus. The latest victim is Lini (31), a nurse at Perambra Taluk Hospital, who died after getting exposed to the virus while tending to an infected patient.
While three victims have been tested positive for the virus in the past fortnight, the results from the other six samples will be available soon. According to the health officials, 25 more patients who show similar symptoms have also been hospitalized in Kozhikode.
For the uninitiated, Nipah Virus is an infection which can be transmitted to humans from animals. Fruit bats are believed to primary hosts of the virus. Health officials told the media that they had found mangoes bitten by bats in a home where three people lost their lives to the suspected infection.
The infection was first identified in Malaysia and Singapore in 1999, during an outbreak of encephalitis and respiratory illness among pig farmers. People with close contact with pigs were the first to get infected. With over 300 people falling prey to the infection, over 100 people died in the outbreak.
In a bid to eradicate the deadly virus, more than a million pigs were euthanized at that time, causing heavy trade loss to Malaysia. Avoiding exposure to virus hosts such as sick pigs and bats is proven to be helpful in preventing the virus from spreading.
Fever, drowsiness, headache, respiratory illness, mental confusion and disorientation form the usual symptoms of a Nipah virus infection. While these symptoms seem to be plain and common, they can soon get escalated to a state of coma within 24-48 hours. Since there is no vaccination for the virus, Nipah is listed at the top of 10 priority diseases identified by the WHO as potentials for the next major outbreak.
Rajeev Sadanandan, Kerala’s health secretary, told the media about the nurse Lini losing her life to the virus. “We have sent blood and body fluid samples of all suspected cases for confirmation to National Institute of Virology in Pune. So far, we got confirmation that three deaths were because of Nipah. We are now concentrating on precautions to prevent the spread of the disease since the treatment is limited to supportive care,” he said.