There have been at least ten deaths so far in an outbreak of Nipah virus in Kerala, in southern India. A statewide alert has been issued and a 24-hour control room opened.
The natural host of the virus is believed to be fruit bats. The BBC reports that ‘health officials said they had found mangoes bitten by bats in a home where three people died of the suspected infection.’ Once in the human population, the disease can be spread by coughing, sneezing and other bodily fluids. There is no vaccine and the mortality rate is around 70%. Pigs are another virus host and previous outbreaks were linked to sick pigs, leading to large culls of the animals.
Three of those who have died in the Kozikhode district of Kerala were related – two brothers and their aunt. The father of the two men is currently on life support. A nurse caring for the three relatives has also died.
Symptoms + Transmissions
- The incubation period is between 5 and 14 days.
- Infected people can experience ‘3-14 days of fever and headache, followed by drowsiness, disorientation and mental confusion. These signs and symptoms can progress to coma within 24-48 hours.‘ (CDC)
- Infection can lead to long term changes, such as persistent convulsions and personality changes. (CDC)
- Treatment is limited to supporting the patient through the infection.
- People can catch Nipah virus from infected bats, infected pigs or other humans that have the virus.
- People have previously contracted Nipah virus from drinking raw date palm sap from fruit that was contaminated with fruit bat excrement.
- The World Health Organisation has more information on previous outbreaks in Bangladesh and India.
At present, there is not much official advice for travellers. Our advice is not exhaustive and we urge you to read up on the outbreak and make choices accordingly.
- Avoid eating fruit that you do not know the origin of. Be sure that fruit bats have not eaten or chewed any fruit you eat.
- Avoid fruit bats and pigs.
- Only drink safe drinking water – either water you have boiled for several minutes and cooled, or bottled water from a sealed container. Make an effort to avoid drinking/swallowing/using water from unknown sources.
- Do not drink or consume data palm sap.
- If you present any of the symptoms, seek medical assistance immediately.
- Monitor the local media.
To prevent #nipah virus infection:
-Avoid consuming raw date palm sap or fruits contaminated or partly eaten by #bats?
-Wash hands regularly with soap & clean water
-Avoid contact with infected patients
— WHO South-East Asia (@WHOSEARO) May 25, 2018
— TravelHealthPro (@NaTHNaC) May 23, 2018
- CDC: Nipah Virus (NiV)
- WHO: Nipah virus infection
- Gulf News: Nipah virus kills at least 11 in India, sparks alert
- The Tribune: Nipah death: ‘I’m on my way, take care of kids’, dying nurse’s message to hubby
- BBC News: Lini Puthussery: ‘Hero’ nurse who died battling the Nipah virus
- CNN: Nipah virus claims three lives in India, more than 40 being tested
- BBC News: Deadly Nipah virus claims victims in India