New Nipah virus case in southern India

Thiruvananthapuram (India) (AFP) –


An Indian student has been infected by a virus that killed at least 17 people in the southern state of Kerala last year, local officials said Tuesday.

Nipah virus is listed by the World Health Organization, alongside Ebola and Zika, as one of the eight priority diseases that could cause a global epidemic.

The student, 23, is undergoing treatment for high fever but remains stable, Kerala's health minister, K.K. Shailaja, told reporters.

Nearly 90 people who came into contact with him are under observation, including two nurses who treated the man initially and one person who has been moved to an isolation ward.

Nipah spreads from animals to humans or through contaminated food and directly between people. Fruit bats are the natural carriers of the virus.

The virus is linked with respiratory illness and fatal encephalitis, and there is no known vaccine against it. Early symptoms include fever, headache, muscle pain, dizziness and nausea.

State authorities in Kerala urged the public to remain calm, and take precautions to prevent an outbreak as the federal government rushed a team of doctors and medicines to the state.

Last May at least 17 people died after being infected by Nipah across several cities in Kerala. The outbreak was declared over a month later.

The dead included a nurse who was treating infected patients at a hospital.

Scores of others were kept in isolation wards, and treated for the deadly virus.

It was initially blamed on fruit bats, but tests did not confirm the claim and the source of the outbreak remains unknown.

Nipah has killed more than 260 people in Malaysia, Bangladesh and India since 1998.

It is named after the Malaysian village where it first appeared in 1998. It spread to Singapore, killing more than 100 people.

In India the disease was first reported in 2001 and again six years later, with the two outbreaks claiming 50 lives. Both times the disease was reported in West Bengal state bordering Bangladesh.

Bangladesh has borne the brunt of the disease in recent years, with more than 100 people dying of Nipah since the first outbreak was reported in 2001.