By David E, Hubler
Contributor, EDM Digest
Indian officials say at least 10 people have died in Kerala state from the Nipah virus, a rare infection that spreads through bats, pigs and other animals, CBS News reported Wednesday.
Thirteen others have been infected; two of them are in critical condition. Another 100 or so residents have been quarantined in their homes.
Eight of the dead are from Kerala's Kozhikode district. Two others died in the neighboring district of Mallapuram.
Several members of one family in Kozhikod were the first to be infected. “Two brothers from the family died on May 5 and their father is also infected and being treated in hospital. A female relative who was with them in hospital also died later,” CBS said.
Local Government Official Says ‘No Need to Panic’
"There is no need to panic. All cases are linked to the one family in Kozhikode [and] those who came in contact with them," Rajeev Sadanandan, Additional Chief Secretary, Health and Family Welfare Department in Kerala, told CBS News.
Experts from the New Delhi-based National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) have been sent to the state to try to contain the outbreak.
Kerala Government Monitoring Nipah Virus Outbreak
Kerala state Chief Minister Pinarai Vijayan said the government is closely monitoring the spread of the virus. A 24-hour control room has been opened to monitor the situation and a statewide alert has been issued.
Vijayan said in a tweet that so far the virus has been reported only in the city of Kozhikode, the second largest urban area in Kerala with more than a half million residents.
Vijayan requested that everyone should follow health department instructions to tackle the crisis and “remain vigilant.”
Nipah Virus Is Dangerous, but Rarely Infects People
The Nipah virus is often carried by fruit bats. These bats don’t bite people or even come into contact with people. Instead, the problem comes when people and livestock share fruit with the bats.
The Nipah virus rarely infects people. But when it does, it can make them very sick, according to NBC News.
“The little-known virus has never been seen in this part of India before and that’s got global health officials worried. It’s one of the deadliest viruses known,” NBC said.
The only treatment for Nipah at present is supportive care, putting people on ventilators and providing fluids while the body recovers.
Nipah Virus Kills a Majority of Its Victims
“This is a virus that when it gets into people, [as it did] in Bangladesh, it kills them on average three-quarters of the time and in some cases 100 percent of the time,” Dr. Jon Epstein, wildlife veterinarian and epidemiologist for the EcoHealth Alliance, told NBC News.
Epstein said Nipah causes encephalitis, a brain inflammation that is often fatal. Encephalitis causes long-term disabilities in survivors.
Additional symptoms of Nipah virus infection include fever, headache and respiratory problems, followed by drowsiness, disorientation and mental confusion, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Each outbreak is different. In some earlier outbreaks, the Nipah virus killed 40 percent of infected people. It can also remain in the body for months and even years, the CDC said.
Nipah was first identified in Malaysia in 1999. It’s named after the Malaysian village Sungai Nipah, where pig farmers started coming down with encephalitis.
“The reason Nipah virus emerged in the first place was the pig farming system had gotten so large and industrialized,” Epstein explained. Many farmers also grew mango trees near the pig pens. “It was an all-you-can-eat buffet for the bats,” he added.