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Nipah Virus menace in Kerala

Nipah Virus menace in Kerala

Tag: GS 3 || Science & Technology || Health & Medicine || Diseases

Why in news?

  • A youth from Ernakulam district in Kerala has tested positive for the Nipah virus infection, a year after a similar outbreak in the state had claimed 17 lives.


  • Cause: The natural host of the virus are fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family and Pteropous genus, widely found in South and South East Asia.
  • Transmission: The infection is generally transmitted from animals to human beings, mainly from bats and pigs. Human-to-human transmission is also possible, and so is transmission from contaminated food.
    • However, the actual source of the current infection is not yet known.
    • Scientists are currently working on finding the epidemiological link of the outbreak.
  • Effect: Nipah virus causes a so far incurable infection in human beings, which can sometimes be fatal.
    • Patients either show no symptoms of the infection, thereby making it difficult to detect, or develop acute respiratory problems, or encephalitis that often becomes fatal.
    • The World Health Organization (WHO) says the infection has been found to be fatal in 40% to 75% of the infected patients.
    • There is no treatment available as of now, either for humans or animals, nor any vaccine.

Previous incidents

  • 1st identified in Malaysia: First identified in 1999 in Malaysia, Nipah virus infections have been detected quite frequently in Bangladesh.
  • Kerala: There have been a few incidents of infection in India earlier, apart from last year’s outbreak in Kerala.
    • Last year’s outbreak was confined to two districts, Kozhikode and Malappuram.
    • Studies by NIV have revealed that a particular kind of fruit bat, Pteropus spp, was most likely the source of human infection in 2018.
    • Research suggested that this particular strain might have been circulating in the local bat population.
    • The newly detected case in Kerala could actually be a result of intensified preventive and containment efforts after last year’s outbreak.
  • Elsewhere in India: Nipah virus has been found in other parts of India earlier.
    • The first outbreak was in 2001 in Siliguri, where more than 30 people were hospitalised with suspected infection.
    • Another outbreak happened in 2007 in Nadia of West Bengal.
      • Again, over 30 cases of fever with acute respiratory distress and/or neurological symptoms were reported, five of which turned out to be fatal.
    • In 2018, after the outbreak in Kerala, doctors tested samples from suspected cases in Karnataka, Telangana and Maharashtra. All of them tested negative.


  • Human to human: People who have had close contact with a patient are considered to be at potential risk.
    • These include people who have slept in the same household , have had direct physical contact either with the patient or a deceased who had an infection, or have touched the blood or other body fluids (saliva, urine, sputum) of the patient during illness.


  • NIV: A study by NIV, published last month in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, reported that the risk for asymptomatic infections (in which the infected person does not show overt symptoms) was higher among people with a history of exposure to body fluids of infected patients as compared to those who only had physical contact with the patient.
    • After the study, the NIV advised extreme care for healthcare workers and caregivers — double gloves, fluid-resistant gown, goggles, face shields, closed shoes and similar other protective gear — and a limited number of visitors to the patient.
  • Prevent spread: As of now, scientists feel the current outbreak is likely localised, like last year’s. So far only one suspected sample has tested positive. More people showing symptoms are being screened and so are people in physical contact with them.

Mains question

What is Nipah virus? How is it transmitted? What steps have been taken by the government to control its spread?