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India: Officials racing to contain Nipah virus outbreak in Kerala

Nipah originates in animals but can transfer to humans like Covid-19 (Picture: Getty/AP)

India is racing to stop a new pandemic taking hold after a deadly illness killed a 12-year-old boy.

Health officials in Kerala are working to trace close contacts and prevent a wider outbreak of Nipah virus.

The Indian state is already stretched to capacity with a higher rate of Covid-19 infections than the rest of the country.

Over the last 14 days, more than 27,000 new infections have been identified every 24 hours.

Now officials are fighting on a new front in an area where at least a dozen people died after contracting the virus in 2018.

Veena George, the state’s health minister, said it was a ‘great relief’ the eight contacts initially tested were negative. 

Almost 200 people have been identified as potential contacts, with the 20 most at risk under strict quarantine and observation in hospital.

Health officials in Kerala are already dealing with the country’s highest Covid-19 rates (Picture: DeFodi Images)
Specially trained health workers in protective suits were brought in to cremate the 12-year-old (Picture: AP)
As well as close contact, animals are being tested to identify potential viral reservoirs (Picture: AP)
Officials were seen collecting bats for testing as the species is a known carrier of Nipah (Picture: DeFodi Images)

As of Monday, two health workers who treated the boy were displaying symptoms but officials are now confident they’ve contained further spread.

Scientists first identified the disease, which originates in bats or pigs, on a farm in Malaysia in 1999.

Like Covid-19, once the virus has transferred to a person, it can be spread in the community, including through asymptomatic transmission.

With an estimated fatality rate of 40% to 75%, the disease is far more deadly than Covid-19.

There is no vaccine for the virus, which can cause raging fevers, convulsions and vomiting, according to the World Health Organisation. 

Bangladesh has reported almost annual outbreaks since its first in 2001 and there have been previous cases in India.

More testing is being carried out this week in the coastal city of Kozhikode where the boy died, including door-to-door surveillance.

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at webnews@metro.co.uk.

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