A potential outbreak with a lethal virus is emerging in India, but it is no COVID-19.
Rallying from the worst strike of the Delta variant that once made it an epicenter of COVID-19, health officials are on the lookout for Nipah, a rare virus first discovered in the late 1990s and by far ravaged mainly Asian countries.
The World Health Organization says Nipah, a virus capable of jumping between humans and animals, has a fatality rate of up to between 40% and 75%. This rate is substantially higher than COVID-19, which only poses 2%.
According to CBS News, a 12-year-old boy in Kerala of southern India had died of the virus last Sunday, Sept. 5, prompting local authorities to quickly begin contact tracing and quarantine those in close contact with the boy.
The outlet said the boy developed a high fever and was admitted to the hospital one week before his death.
More than 100 of the boy’s prospective contacts have already been instructed to segregate themselves, with 48 being monitored in a Kerala hospital. Two nurses who took care of the boy had already shown symptoms on Monday.
ABC News noted that authorities closed off the area within a two-mile radius of the boy’s home and began screening people for symptoms in all of Kerala’s neighboring districts. Tamil Nadu, a neighboring state, was also on high alert for any suspected instances of fever.
Nipah virus usually spreads when humans directly contact animals infected with it or eat contaminated food. But it can also be transmitted between humans.
Nipah is spread naturally by fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family, also known as “flying foxes.” Pigs, dogs, cats, goats, horses, and sheep have all been known to contract the virus from them.
Symptoms ignited by the Nipah virus are somewhat similar to COVID-19, including fever, cough, sore throat, and breathing difficulties, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Patients of Nipah would usually get encephalitis or brain swelling, CDC noted. Even if the patients can survive the disease, Nipah may still leave them with lasting convulsions and personality abnormalities.
People may become ill and perhaps die months or even years after being exposed to the virus, which can lie latent in their bodies.
No vaccine against Nipah has been developed, and the main therapy is supportive care to keep patients comfortable and control complications.
Amid concerns of Nipah, Kerala is also struggling with COVID-19. ABC News provided that nearly 68% of India’s approximately 40,000 new cases are reported from there in the state.
This latest emergence of Nipah had been the second time in three years that the northern state recorded it.
“The nature of Nipah virus infection is such that if the outbreak spirals out of control, it could pose a bigger threat to public health than the coronavirus pandemic,” India Today stated.