A rare virus that damages the brain kills 10 in India and causes troubles in hospitals

BENGALURU / KOCHI (Reuters) – A rare virus spread by fruit bats, which can cause flu-like symptoms and brain damage, has killed 10 people in south India, health officials said on Tuesday. minus two more cases monitored.

Doctors wearing protective equipment examine a patient in a hospital in Kozhikode in the southern state of Kerala, India on May 21, 2018. REUTERS / Stringer

Outbreaks of infectious diseases can be a challenge in the second most populous country in the world, where control of infection and surveillance are weak, causing hundreds of deaths annually from diseases such as dengue transmitted by mosquitoes.

There is no vaccine for the Nipah virus that has exploded in the state of Kerala. It can cause encephalitis or inflammation of the brain, says the World Health Organization. The usual treatment is supportive care.

The first death occurred on Friday in the Kozhikode district, said K.K. Shailaja, state health minister, a magnet for tourists.

Doctors wearing protective equipment examine a patient in a hospital in Kozhikode, in the southern state of Kerala, India, on May 21, 2018. REUTERS / Stringer

"This is a new situation for us We have no previous experience in dealing with the Nipah virus, "said Shailaja. "We hope we can stop the outbreak."

Of the 18 people selected for the virus, 12 tested positive, he said at a press conference, adding that 10 of them had died and that the other two were being monitored. closely.

People wearing masks are seen in a hospital in Kozhikode in the southern state of Kerala, India May 21, 2018. REUTERS / Stringer

Three of the victims, members of the same family, were suspected of being infected by bats that filled a well near their home, said a local government official, UV Jose.

"We closed the well and evacuated the people who live nearby," José said, adding that federal health authorities that visited the area were investigating.

The deaths had caused concern among residents, he added.

"A large number of people affected by fever, and even minor ailments, are flocking to hospitals, fearing they have contracted the disease," said José.

"We seek the help of private hospitals to overcome the crisis".

Health surveillance has intensified in Kerala, state health secretary Rajeev Sadananda told Reuters.

The virus was first detected in Malaysia in 1998, and the eastern state of West Bengal in India has suffered two outbreaks in the last decade and has killed 50 people, the WHO said.

Report of Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru and D. José in Kochi; Written by Zeba Siddiqui; Edition of Euan Rocha, Clarence Fernandez


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