Deadly Virus in India Could Cause Global Epidemic

The outbreak started with a fruit bat
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 29, 2018 3:38 AM CDT
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In this photo from Thursday, relatives and friends wear masks as a precautionary measure against the Nipah virus as they pray after the burial of a body in Kozhikode, in the southern Indian state of Kerala.   (AP Photo/K.Shijith)
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(Newser) – The Nipah virus has now killed at least a dozen people in southern India and health workers fear it could become a global epidemic if it isn't tightly monitored. More than 40 other people have been infected with the virus, which has a mortality rate of around 75%, Fox News reports. Health officials believe the outbreak in Kerala state began with an infected fruit bat, with later infections coming from human-to-human contact. There's no known cure or vaccine for Nipah, which causes symptoms including fever, vomiting, and convulsions. To avoid being infected by fruit bats, citizens have been urged to ignore fallen fruit on the ground, especially if it has claw or tooth marks.

Previous outbreaks of Nipah were recorded in West Bengal and Bangladesh, more than a thousand miles away from the current outbreak. Experts aren't sure how it ended up in Kerala, especially since no cases have been detected elsewhere in southern India and even migratory bats don't travel that far. Some experts believe it was spread through infected figs and dates, while others say pressures on fruit bat populations may have activated the virus. "This is why it is so important to find the source of this outbreak," a medical officer tells FirstPost. "Only if we answer the question of how the virus came to this part of the world can we put in place scientific measures to ensure that such an outbreak does not happen anywhere close by again. Otherwise, we cannot be sure of how and in which way this virus would spread in the future."

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