Indian health officials were checking on Wednesday if a rare, brain-damaging virus had spread to a second state after two suspected cases reported in southern Karnataka, as the death toll in adjacent Kerala, where the outbreak began, rose to 11.
State official Rajeev Sadanandan said the districts of Kannur, Kozhikode, Malappuram and Wayanad should be avoided at all costs.
The National Centre for Disease Control has issued high alert across the country after an outbreak of the Nipah virus (NiV) infection in Kerala. The nurse succumbed to Nipah virus infection on Tuesday morning at Taluk Hospital in Perambra. "Also, 95 families are under surveillance", health ministry official said.
Nipah virus was identified for the first time in parts of Singapore and Malaysia in 1999 but outbreaks have now also occurred in Kerala and Bangladesh.
While the cause of the outbreak is still being investigated, a team of health experts who visited the family's house have linked it to dead bats found in the home's water well.
Since these bats feed on any fruit they can find, there's a risk of exports of many fruits getting affected.
The patients are under treatment and their blood samples have been sent for screening, with the result expected by Thursday, he added.
- Nipah can be passed by fruit bats, pigs and through human-to-human contact.
While three members of a family at Perambara in Kozhikode died within weeks after what seemed to be common fever aggravated quickly, two more family members were being treated at the Medical College hospital and one of them has also tested positive.
As in the case of the first outbreak in 1998, bats may pass the virus to other animals and livestock, which can then pass it on to humans.
Shailaja, the health minister in Kerala, said those who have been in contact with the victims have been put into quarantine. The virus is spread by infected bats, pigs or humans.
There is now no vaccine or treatment to tackle Nipah, which has a mortality rate of around 70 percent. Primary treatment options include intensive care support with ventilator and BP support with standard infection control practice.
There is no vaccine for the virus, which is spread through body fluids and can cause encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.