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Indian boy dies of Nipah virus in Kerala after being hospitalized with symptoms

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A 12-year-old boy has died in Kerala, India after being hospitalized for exhibiting symptoms of the Nipah virus, online news media The Indian Express reported on Sunday.

He was first admitted to the hospital on Wednesday and his test samples were sent to the Pune National Institute of Virology. It was later confirmed that he had contracted the Nipah virus.

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“Three samples-plasma, CF and serum- were found infected. He was admitted to the hospital with a heavy fever four days ago. But on Saturday, his condition became worse. We had sent his samples for testing the day before yesterday,” health minister Veena George was quoted as saying by the Indian Express.

Seventeen people he had previously been in contact with are reportedly under observation and will be subject to testing. According to the health minister, those on the contact list are not showing any symptoms, according to the report.

Kerala under health alert as precaution

A team from the Indian government’s National Center for Disease Control has been sent to Kerala to provide necessary technical support to the state.

The state government hosted an urgent meeting on Saturday night, bringing together health officials to discuss the matter.

The district’s authorities have placed the area under a health alert and closed off areas around the boy’s house, up to three kilometers. The hospital ward in which he was treated, and some surrounding wards, have also been shut down since his passing, sources told the Indian Express, adding that police have asked people to restrict their movement in and around those areas.

Public health measures, quarantine required

The disease control center has also implemented public health measures including active case search in the boy’s family and village as well as contact tracing for any individuals who were in contact with the boy in the past 12 days and strict quarantine requirements.

Nipah virus last reported in 2019

The Nipah virus was last reported in Kerala in 2019. The previous outbreak in 2018 in Kozhikode and Malappuram districts caused the death of 17 people.

Health officials in full protective gear walk inside an isolation ward of Ernakulam Medical College in Kochi in the Indian southwestern state of Kerala on June 6, 2019. (File photo: AFP)
Health officials in full protective gear walk inside an isolation ward of Ernakulam Medical College in Kochi in the Indian southwestern state of Kerala on June 6, 2019. (File photo: AFP)

The virus has been known to spread to humans through “direct contact with infected animals such as bats or pigs, or body fluids,” according to the US’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including but not limited to saliva and urine.

With a fatality rate of up to 75 percent, Nipah can be transmitted to people from animals through contaminated food produce and from person-to-person.

Symptoms of Nipah virus

In infected people, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), it causes a range of illnesses from asymptomatic (subclinical) infection to acute respiratory illness and or fatal causes of encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain. The usual treatment is supportive care.

First recognized in 1999 during an outbreak among pig farmers in Malaysia, the virus was, over the next few years, reported across Asian nations.

During the first recognized outbreak in Malaysia, which also affected Singapore, most human infections resulted from direct contact with sick pigs, or their contaminated tissues.

In later outbreaks in Bangladesh and India, consumption of fruits or fruit products (such as raw date palm juice) contaminated with urine or saliva from infected fruit bats was the most likely source of infection.

Read more:

Nipah virus ‘is a cause of concern, lessons should be learned from COVID-19’: experts

Nipah virus: How is it transmitted and what are the symptoms

A new pandemic? Here’s what happened the last time Nipah virus spread