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A Virus Deadlier Than COVID Emerges Again

India is moving fast to contain the spread of Nipah
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 7, 2021 1:12 PM CDT
A Virus Deadlier Than COVID Emerges Again
In this 2018 photo, paramedics wear protective suits as they bury the body of a person who died of the Nipah virus in the southern Indian state of Kerala.   (AP Photo/K.Shijith)

(Newser) – COVID has put the world on high alert for viruses with the potential to wreak havoc, and one such candidate has just re-emerged in India. It's called the Nipah virus, reports CBS News, and while it is not as contagious as COVID, it is much deadlier. Coverage:

  • Fatality: A 12-year-old boy in the southern Indian state of Kerala died of Nipah over the weekend, and two health workers who attended to him were showing symptoms. Tests are pending, and authorities in the meantime are quarantining them and anyone who came into contact with the boy. They also sealed off a 2-mile radius around the boy's home.

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  • What is Nipah? The virus was first identified in 1999 in an outbreak of pigs and humans in Malaysia and Singapore, per Weather.com. It is zoonotic, meaning it can jump from animals to humans, and fruit bats are a natural host. Humans can pass it to other humans, and they also can pick it up by eating contaminated animals or even, say, by eating fruit that an infected fruit bat has sampled.
  • Deadly: The mortality rate for those infected is up to 75%, reports the BBC in an in-depth look at the virus earlier this year. ("It is likely we haven't seen the last of it," wrote Harriet Constable presciently in January.) What's more, the incubation rate can be as long as 45 days, providing plenty of opportunity for people to spread it before exhibiting symptoms (which include cough, fever, convulsions, fatigue, and encephalitis, or a swelling of the brain). No vaccine or cure currently exists.
  • On guard: The above reasons are why the World Health Organization lists Nipah among its top 10 "priority diseases." The goods news is that while there have been multiple outbreaks in South and Southeast Asia over the years, they have so far been contained fairly quickly. Nipah has claimed about 260 lives in total since it was first identified, according to CBS.
  • The other virus: As it rushes to contain Nipah, the state of Kerala is currently experiencing the highest number of COVID cases in the nation, reports the AP. Of India's daily total of 31,222 cases on Monday, 20,000 were in Kerala.
(Read more India stories.)

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