South Asia

Kerala takes urgent measures to contain Nipah virus

In a bid to contain the rare and lethal Nipah virus, the southern Indian state of Kerala has taken immediate actions, including the closure of select schools, offices, and public transport services, as authorities strive to curtail its spread. This virus has claimed two lives, with three more individuals testing positive.

Jerala Health Minister Veena George explained, “Following this incident, we have swiftly identified contacts and isolated them. Two epicenters have been identified in Kozhikode district. Consequently, these two epicenters and a five-kilometer radius around them have been declared containment zones. The district collector has issued necessary directives within these zones.”

Local businesses are grappling with an unforeseen challenge. Muthalib, a shopkeeper, lamented the situation, saying, “Just as businesses were beginning to recover from the impact of COVID-19, the emergence of the Nipah virus has disrupted everything. Everything is now shut.”

This marks Kerala’s fourth encounter with the virus since 2018. Notably, there is no vaccine available for Nipah, and it spreads through contact with the bodily fluids of infected bats, pigs, or individuals, with a mortality rate of up to 75% among those infected.

The initial Nipah outbreak in Kerala claimed the lives of 21 out of 23 infected individuals. Subsequent outbreaks in 2019 and 2021 resulted in the deaths of two people each.

A Reuters investigation conducted in May highlighted parts of Kerala as among the global hotspots most vulnerable to outbreaks of bat-borne viruses. The expansion of development projects and the consequent clearing of forests have brought people and wildlife into closer contact, increasing the risk of such outbreaks.