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A new challenge Nipah Virus amid Covid-19 for Kerala, India: What you need to know

Picture courtesy: NDTV

After a 12-year-old boy in Kerala died of Nipah on September 5, the local authorities have geared up to check any further spread of the deadly virus in the district and surrounding areas. Pune National Institute of Virology confirmed the presence of the Nipah virus.

Kerala has nearly 30,000 cases of COVID-19 already and the news of the Nipah virus prompting the state to further heighten the alertness of its health machinery to prevent an outbreak of a different infection.

Kerala Health Minister Veena George said that two more people have been identified with symptoms of Nipah virus infection. The two are among the 20 high-risk contacts of the deceased child,

Meanwhile, the central government has rushed a team from the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to provide support to the state,

However, experts, like Dr Amar Fettle, Dr TS Anish and Dr TN Suresh, said that there was less cause for concern at present as the state has already dealt with the Nipah virus twice in the past -- when it reared its head in 2018 and 2019 -- and the risk of transmission would be less this time around as protective measures, like wearing of masks and PPE kits, are already in place.

They also said that Nipah infections are usually confined to small clusters or areas.

The World Health Organization (WHO) had defined the Nipah virus (NiV) as a zoonotic virus that is transmitted to people from animals and can also be transmitted through contaminated food or directly from person to person.

In infected people, the Nipah virus causes a range of illnesses from asymptomatic (subclinical) infection to acute respiratory illness and fatal encephalitis.

There are currently no drugs or vaccines that specifically target Nipah virus infection.

WHO has, however, identified Nipah as a priority disease for the WHO Research and Development Blueprint.

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