Authorities in the southern Indian state of Kerala are scrambling to contain a new outbreak of the nipah virus. They are trying to find and isolate people who have been in contact with the infected.
This is believed to be a variant of the virus that was initially discovered in Bangladesh. According to Deutsche Welle, humans and animals can become infected through droplets or contact with infected surfaces. Human-to-human transmission of the virus is also possible.
The infection causes inflammation of the brain and leads to mild or severe illness, but can also lead to death. The variant discovered in Bangladesh had a very high mortality rate. A third of the patients died. The Kerala variant is considered less contagious.
Authorities have closed thousands of offices and schools, and established buffer zones around nine villages to prevent the spread of the virus.
Two people have died, and five infections have been confirmed in the country. This is the third outbreak of nipah virus in Kerala in the last five years.
Nipah virus usually found in a species of fruit-eating bats known as flying foxes. Scientists have not yet definitively determined how the virus is transmitted from these bats to pigs, cattle or even humans. According to some reports, humans and animals can become infected through contact with the contaminated saliva and urine of these bats.
The 2018 outbreak in Kerala was likely due to contamination of a drinking water source. Later, dead flying fox bats were found in the well of the infected family.
There is no vaccine for the nipah virus, doctors can only relieve the symptoms. Since the outbreak of the disease in 1998, more than 260 people have died as a result of infection with the virus in Malaysia, Bangladesh and India.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has included this virus in the list of eight priority diseases that can trigger an epidemic. Ebola and Zika are also on the list.
Symptoms of infection with the virus are similar to those of the flu, and the disease can lead to inflammation of the brain and coma. The disease caused by the virus is fatal in 70 percent of cases.