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NEW DELHI : Already struggling to deal with rising cases of covid-19, Kerala has now reported a case of the deadly Nipah virus in Kozhikode district. The disease has emerged again after 2018 when there was a Nipah outbreak in Kozhikode and Malappuram districts of the state. 

The Union health ministry said a suspected case of Nipah was found in a 12-year-old boy on 3 September, who showed symptoms of encephalitis and myocarditis. The virus spreads to humans when they consume fruits contaminated by the saliva of fruit bats infected by the virus. The boy was hospitalized and died on Sunday morning. The Union government has rushed a team of national centre for disease control (NCDC) to Kerala to provide technical support to the local administration, the health ministry said in a statement. 

“Central team visits house of boy [who] died of Nipah, collects sample of Rambutan fruits: The sample could help identify the source of the infection and confirm whether the origin of the infection was through a bat," the health ministry said in a series of tweets. 

“The team also questioned the family and those close to the deceased to identify the food he consumed and the animals he may have come in contact with. Further, the team also advised everyone to be extra vigilant and inform health professionals as soon as possible if they have similar symptoms. The central team directly instructed the locals on the protocol to be followed in the homes and surroundings," the ministry said and added that strict protocol has been imposed within a three-kilometre radius of the Nipah victim’s house. These areas have been declared as containment zone. Similar cautionary steps are issued in nearby areas of Kozhikode district, Malappuram and Kannur districts. 

The ministry has advised immediate public health measures such as active case search in the family, other families, village and areas with similar topography (especially Malappuram), active contact tracing (for any contacts) during the past 12 days, and strict quarantine of the contacts and isolation of any suspects and collection and transportation of samples for lab testing.

Kerala is currently also reporting the single-highest number of covid-19 cases in India. The 2018 Nipah outbreak in the state was traced to fruit bats and it had claimed 17 lives at the time. The outbreak was contained and declared over on 10 June 2018. This was the third outbreak of Nipah virus in India, the earlier being in 2001 and 2007 in West Bengal. 

Human Nipah virus (NiV) infection is an emerging zoonotic disease which was first recognized in a large outbreak of 276 reported cases in Malaysia and Singapore from September 1998 to May 1999. The first identification of Nipah virus as a cause of an outbreak of encephalitis was reported in 2001 in Meherpur district of Bangladesh. 

Currently, there is no known treatment or vaccine available for either people or animals and treatment is limited to intensive supporting care.

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