Asia-Pacific News

Deadly virus identified as a potential epidemic kills nine in India

Shafi Musaddique
Key Points
  • The deadly nipah virus is on a list of top emerging diseases likely to cause an epidemic.
  • Nursing assistant who treated deceased dies from virus.
  • Nipah virus can be contracted from animals, especially fruit bats.
Arterra / Getty Images

A deadly virus described by the World Health Organization (WHO) as having the potential of becoming the next deadly major outbreak has killed nine people in the southern Indian state of Kerala.

State health officials confirmed that three people had contracted the Nipah virus within the past fortnight. The first death was reported to government officials on Saturday.

The Nipah virus claimed the life of a nursing assistant Monday who had treated a patient who had died of the disease, according to local media.

Chief minister of Kerala, Shri Pinarayi Vijayan, said Monday that India's government is closely monitoring the spread of the virus.

"Health department is doing everything possible to save the lives of the infected & prevent the advance of virus," said Vijayan in a statement on Twitter.

"Private hospitals have been instructed to not deny treatment for anyone suffering from fever."

A spokesperson for the WHO was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.

Nipah can be transmitted from animals to humans and human-to-human contact. The disease can emerge from fruit bats and infect domesticated animals such as pigs.

The first recorded outbreak was in Malaysia in 1998 with over 600 cases of nipah documented since.

Cases were recorded in Bangladesh in 2004 when infected date palm sap contaminated by fruit bats had been consumed.

Drowsiness, mental confusion and respiratory problems are some symptoms of the nipah virus.

There is currently no vaccine for the disease.

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