A Nipah virus disease (NiV) outbreak was reported from Kerala, India on 19 May 2018. This is the first NiV outbreak in South India. As of 31 May, there are 16 deaths, 16 confirmed cases and 12 suspected cases. The two affected districts are Kozhikode and Mallapuram.
Nipah virus is currently on the World Health Organization (WHO) list of Blueprint priority diseases due to their public health risk and lack of countermeasures were they to cause an epidemic. This list also includes Zika and Ebola.
Nipah virus (NiV) infection is a newly emerging zoonosis that causes severe disease in both animals and humans. The natural host of the virus are fruit bats of the Pteropodidae Family, Pteropus genus. Once the virus gets into people, it can spread from person to person through close contact with bodily fluids, typically from people who are very sick with Nipah to the family members or health-care workers caring for them.
The virus causes severe brain swelling called encephalitis, and in some cases respiratory disease, and typically kills three-quarters of the people infected. So far, the virus doesn’t spread too easily from human to human.
According to Stephen Luby, MD, of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, the unease about Nipah virus revolves around two factors: its high case fatality rate of 75%, and the fact that the virus can be transmitted from person-to-person.
“We don’t need to lose sleep immediately, because the person-to-person transmission tends to be inefficient,” Luby told MedPage Today — about 1 in 12 people transmit the virus. “Most people who get infected don’t pass it along, and because it’s inefficiently transmitted, you get short trains of transmission that tend to end on their own.”
The World Health Organisation has yet to declare the current outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, but that this outbreak should continue to be watched closely because of its potential of becoming the next global health emergency-WHO.