According to the latest reports, six people infected with the Nipah virus (NiV) have died in Kerala, which is named after a part of Malaysia where their first outbreak was reported.
Body fluids samples from seven other people who died in the Kozhikode (Calicut) and Malappuram districts have been sent for testing.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says that Nipah infection is an “emerging” zoonosis, a medical term used to refer to diseases that can be transmitted to humans from vertebrate animals.
While the UN agency notes that frugivorous bats belonging to a specific genus (a zoological class) are the “natural hosts” of Nipah – it lists the outbreaks caused by “intermediate” hosts (pigs in Malaysia) and plant matter infected (Bangladesh), and says transmission between humans is also known to take place.
CM Pinarayi Vijayan has reported that [the] government is closely monitoring the spread of the Nipah virus. [The] health department is doing everything possible to save the lives of the infected and prevent the spread of the virus.
– Office of the Prime Minister of Kerala | Twitter / @ CMOKerala
So, how do we know that a person has been infected?
Well, the WHO says that Nipah can manifest itself in several ways: the infection can be “asymptomatic”, that is, not produce symptoms, or produce “acute respiratory syndrome and fatal encephalitis [inflammation of the brain].”
— Dr Roshan R (@pythoroshan) May 21, 2018
So, what is the cure?
The WHO says that vaccines do not exist (neither for humans nor for animals), and that “the primary treatment for human cases is intensive supportive care”.
In Kozhikode and Malappuram, people have been advised to be extremely careful: the virus could be transmitted through contaminated water or fruits. Seasonal products such as mangoes, guavas and jackfruits should be consumed with caution.
People have also been warned not to eat fruits thrown on the ground.
Of the six people who died, one was a nurse who treated two of the victims. Medical personnel are also vulnerable to infection, and those who come in direct contact with patients should wear masks and hand gloves.