Director general of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Rajeev Bahl on Friday said the mortality rate among those infected with the Nipah virus is much higher compared to that of Covid-19 pandemic. Addressing a press conference, Bahl said while Covid had a mortality rate of two to three percent, Nipah has a death rate of 40 to 70 percent.
Asserting that they are making all efforts to contain the spread of the deadly virus in the southern state, the ICMR DG said, “We do not why the cases keep surfacing. In 2018, we found the outbreak in Kerala was related to bats. We are not sure how the infection passed from bats to humans. The link could not be established. Again we are trying to find out this time. It always happens in the rainy season.”
India to procure doses of monoclonal antibody from Australia
According to the ICMR DG, India will be procuring 20 more doses of monoclonal antibody from Australia for the treatment of Nipah virus infection.
“We got some doses of monoclonal antibody from Australia in 2018. Currently, the doses are available for only 10 patients,” he said.
“…20 more doses are being procured. However, the medicine needs to be given during the early stage of the infection. Only phase 1 trial to establish the safety of the medicine has been done outside. Efficacy trials have not been done. It can only given as compassionate use medicine,” Bahl said.
While globally the antibody has been successfully given to 14 patients, no one in India has been administered with the doses so far.
Nipah outbreak in Kerala
A total of six people have tested positive for the deadly Nipah virus, out of which two died due to the infection. In view of this, restrictions have been tightened in the Kozhikode district with the administration shutting all educational institutions, parks, and beaches. Prayer gatherings at religious institutions and other public programs have also been banned.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, 11 samples of suspected cases and their contacts returned as ‘negative’ from the National Institute of Virology in Pune. Subsequently, 15 other samples were collected and sent for testing.
What is Nipah virus?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Nipah virus infection is a zoonotic illness that is transmitted via animals to humans, and can also be transmitted via contaminated food or directly between people and is caused by fruit bats. The virus is not only fatal for humans, but for animals as well. The virus can also cause severe disease in animals such as pigs, resulting in significant economic losses for farmers, WHO said.
The symptoms of the Nipah virus are similar to Covid-19 – cough, sore throat, dizziness, drowsiness, muscle pain, tiredness, encephalitis (swelling of the brain), headache, stiff neck, sensitivity to light, mental confusion, and seizures.