As India announces containment measures to control the spread of Nipah virus, detected in the southern state of Kerala, attention is returning to the pressing need for an approved vaccine and suitable treatments. Schools and offices are reported to be shutting as five cases were confirmed in September 2023, including two deaths The BBC suggested that “authorities” have tested 706 people, including 153 health workers. This outbreak of the virus is the fourth in Kerala since 2018.  

Nipah present in bats, finds study 

A study that we reported in August 2023 found that Nipah virus is present in fruit bats across much of the country. This prompted calls for increased surveillance, with CEPI highlighting the need for a vaccine. It was noted at the time that, as the climate becomes more volatile, increased contact with the species is likely to increase, presenting greater possibilities for infection.  

Kozhikode cases 

The cases have been reported in Kozhikode in northern Kerala. The Chief Minister of the state, Pinarayi Vijayan, warned members of the public against public gatherings for the next 10 days, suggesting that the government was taking the confirmed deaths “very seriously”. However, he emphasised that there was no reason for panic.  

The Times of India describes a “high alert” across Kerala following the reports of cases and deaths, and Hindustan Times indicates that control measures have been “stepped up”. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is expected to play a critical role in the monitoring and testing of suspected cases.  

What is NiV? 

Nipah virus infection is a zoonotic illness, transmitted from animals, through contaminated food, or directly from person-to-person. Symptoms range from fever and sore throat to encephalitis and seizures. WHO suggests that the case fatality rate is estimated to be between 40% and 75%, depending on “surveillance and clinical management in affected areas”.  

Nipah is one of WHO’s R&D Blueprint top contenders, with pressure mounting to develop an effective vaccine. Indeed, in our recent post on Nipah, we reflected that CEPI is “leading” funding to enable research to “get us” to a vaccine. 2 CEPI-supported candidates are in clinical trials, but once again we find ourselves competing with an outbreak.  

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