India’s southern state of Kerala shut some schools, offices and public transport, the authorities said on Wednesday, as it scrambled to rein in the spread of the deadly brain-damaging Nipah virus that has killed two people.
An adult and a child are still in hospital for infection and more than 700 people were being tested for the virus, which spreads via contact with the bodily fluids of infected bats, pigs or people, said a state health official.
The state government on Wednesday evening said at least 706 people, including 153 health workers, were undergoing tests to check the spread of the virus.
“More people will be tested and isolation facilities will be provided,” said Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who also discouraged public gatherings.
Two infected people have died since Aug 30 in Kerala’s fourth outbreak of the virus since 2018, forcing the authorities to declare containment zones in at least eight Kozhikode villages.
“We are focusing on tracing contacts of infected persons and isolating anyone with symptoms,” said state Health Minister Veena George, adding that the virus detected in Kerala was the same as the one found earlier in Bangladesh – a less infectious but more fatal strain passed between humans.
“Public movement has been restricted in parts of the state to contain the medical crisis,” she said, adding that state epidemiologists were using antivirals and monoclonal antibodies to treat three people infected, including a medical worker.
Strict isolation rules have been adopted, with medical staff being quarantined after contact with the infected.
The first victim was a small landholder in the district’s village of Marutonkara, a government official said. The victim’s daughter and brother-in-law, both infected, are in an isolation ward, with other family members and neighbours being tested.
The second death followed contact in hospital with the first victim, doctors’ initial investigation has shown. The two were not related.
The Nipah virus was first identified in 1999 during an outbreak among pig farmers and others in close contact with the animals in Malaysia and Singapore.
In Kerala’s first Nipah outbreak, 21 of the 23 people infected died, while outbreaks in 2019 and 2021 claimed two more lives.