Nipah deaths in Kerala, two in critical condition; high alert sounded

Nipah deaths in Kerala, two in critical condition; high alert sounded

The Kerala government on Wednesday asked residents to avoid travelling to four districts in the north of the state amid a Nipah virus epidemic that has claimed 11 lives so far.

Meanwhile, there were reports of a Nipah virus scare in Himachal Pradesh with 18 bats found dead in the state. "The situation remains under control", said the department in the advisory as ANI reported.

The virus travels through direct contact with a patient.

Also, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the state government is strictly monitoring the spate and taking steps to put off its further spread.

In a letter to the medical authorities, the director of Health Services, Braja Kishore Brahma, underscored the need to take preventive measures against the deadly virus as treatment options were limited.

NiV infection in humans has a range of outbreaks, from asymptomatic infection to acute respiratory syndrome and fatal encephalitis.

The death toll from the latest outbreak in Kerala rose to 12 on Thursday, following the death of a 61-year-old man who had already lost three members of his family, including his two sons, to the virus.

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The natural host of the virus is believed to be fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family, Pteropus genus.

The public health team constituted by Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW) has given guidelines to the hospitals for proper risk assessment and management of the Nipah Virus infection.

In 2004, residents in Bangladesh also caught the infections after they ate contaminated fruits or consumed products such as raw date palm juice that were contaminated by saliva or urine of infected fruit bats. "In recent years, humans are animals are coming in contact with each other which is also causing outbreak of diseases such as Nipah", he added.

No vaccine has been developed for the disease and there has not been much research into it. Infected people initially develop influenza-like symptoms of fever, headaches, myalgia (muscle pain), vomiting and sore throat.

Nipah, which the World Health Organisation describes as a "newly emerging zoonosis that causes severe disease in both animals and humans" has killed over 260 people in India, Bangladesh and Malaysia since it was first detected in 1998.

There is now no vaccine or drug available for humans or animals and the main treatment is intensive support care for those who are suffering from respiratory and neurologic problems.

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