Health leaders 'closely monitoring' outbreak of deadly virus in India

UK health chiefs ‘closely monitoring’ outbreak of deadly virus in India

  • Virus, which is spread by fruit bats, can kill up to 75 per cent of people it infects
  • READ MORE: Children face 3 WEEK self-isolation if they’ve not had measles jab

An Indian outbreak of Nipah virus, which has no cure and can kill 75 per cent of those it infects, is being ‘closely monitored’ by UK health leaders.

The spike in cases of the virus, which inspired the Hollywood pandemic thriller ‘Contagion’, has already killed two people in the southern state of Kerala.

Five other cases have been detected, including a child of one of the victims, with over 800 people being testing. 

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) told MailOnline it was ‘closely’ monitoring the outbreak. 

Authorities have closed down schools and offices and declared nine villages as containment zones over fears of the brain-damaging virus.

India is currently experiencing an outbreak of Nipah virus in the southern state of Kerala, the fourth since 2018

Hospital staff members install a sign reading ‘Nipah isolation ward, entry strictly prohibited’ at a hospital in Kerala

Workers wear extensive personal protective gear as one of the two Nipah fatalities is conveyed from hospital  

Public transport has also been suspended and neighbouring states are testing travellers from Kerala for potential symptoms. 

Nipah is spread by fruit bats who can transmit the virus to people via contact with infected bodily fluids like saliva or urine left on fruit.

These people can then go on to infect others by close contact including potential airborne transmission through coughing and sneezing. 

Nipah can kill by causing both severe respiratory problems and fatal brain swelling.

No vaccine or medication work against the virus, with treatment focussed on helping patients survive the symptoms while the body fights off the infection.

A UKHSA spokesperson said: ‘UKHSA’s emerging infections and zoonoses team continue to monitor the Nipah outbreak closely though our epidemic intelligence processes.’

‘Nipah virus has not been detected in the UK and the risk of importation into the UK is very low.’

Professor Miles Carroll, an expert in emerging viruses at the Pandemic Sciences Institute at the University of Oxford, said they were ‘closely monitoring’ the outbreak.

READ MORE: Children face THREE WEEK self-isolation if they’ve not had measles jab amid a rapid rise in the disease 

‘To date, there have been five confirmed cases and two deaths reported, with many of those affected being family members of the first patient,’ he said.

‘Scientists here in Oxford are working with local partners in endemic countries to find out more about Nipah so we can ensure the world is better protected from outbreaks of this kind.’

He added that Oxford researchers are currently using the same technology that created the AstraZeneca Covid jab to prepare a clinical trial of new Nipah vaccine. 

No cases of Nipah virus have ever been recorded in the UK.

However, the virus has a typical incubation period of between four and 14 days, meaning it is theoretically possible for a case to be imported into the UK. 

The current Kerala Nipah outbreak is the fourth the area has suffered since 2018.

The first wave of cases killed 21 people, with two more deaths in smaller outbreaks in 2019 and 2021.  

Nipah was first discovered in 1999 after an outbreak among pig farmers in Malaysia.

Nipah virus is spread by fruit bats to people via contact with contaminated bodily fluids like saliva and urine on fruit 

Nipah virus was the inspiration behind the 2011 film Contagion which starred Matt Damon (top right), Laurence Fishburne (top left), Jude Law (bottom left), Gwyneth Paltrow (bottom right)

It has since been regularly found in Bangladesh, where it causes near annual outbreaks.

Based on previous outbreaks, the virus kills between 40 and 75 per cent of those it infects.

Initial signs of infection are subtle, making the virus difficult to contain, according to the World Health Organization. 

First symptoms of Nipah infection include fever, headaches, pain, vomiting and a sore throat.

This is followed by dizziness, drowsiness, altered consciousness and dangerous brain swelling and sometimes severe respiratory problems.

Severe cases of brain swelling result in seizures and then eventually cause the patient to enter a coma. 

Neither of the two fatalities in the current Nipah outbreak have been named. 

Nipah belongs a family of viruses called paramyxoviruses a group that includes pathogens like measles. 

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