The mysterious boy died Sunday at a hospital in Kerala, the southern state already battling the most important number of COVID-19 cases in the hard-hit country, leaders there said.
He had already attended two other hospitals before his death, putting him in contact with potentially hundreds of people — with up to 11 showing potential symptoms, NDTV reported.
Previous explosions of Nipah, or NiV, showed an evaluated fatality rate of between 40% and 75%, according to the World Health Organization, making it far more deadly than the coronavirus.
“The virus has been shown to spread from person to person in these outbreaks, raising concerns about the potential for NiV to cause a global pandemic,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.
More than 100 possible contacts of the boy have already been forced to isolate, with 48 of them being monitored in a hospital in Kerala.
Officials will also be giving out door-to-door surveillance and recognizing secondary contacts.
Health officials are urgently testing as many contacts as possible, with samples from the boy’s primary contacts — his family and health care workers — coming back negative.
“That these eight immediate contacts tested negative is a great relief,” said the state health minister, Veena George.
Nipah virus was first identified in Malaysia and Singapore in 1999 — an outbreak of nearly 300 human cases, with more than 100 deaths, the CDC noted. More than 1 million pigs were killed to help manage the outbreak, causing a “substantial economic impact.”
Twisting its detection, key symptoms are similar to those of COVID-19, including fever, cough, sore throat, and difficulty breathing, the CDC noted.
The infected often also suffer encephalitis or growth of the brain — and if they survive, often suffer persistent convulsions and even personality changes. The contagion can stay asleep in patients — who may get sick and possibly die from it “months and even years after exposure,” the CDC warned.
There is no vaccine, and the only way is supportive care to control complications and keep patients comfortable.
Kerala dealt with a previous outbreak of Nipah in 2018, when more than a dozen people died.
Now, the concern is compounded by the fact that the state is already struggling to contain COVID-19.
Kerala on Monday registered nearly 20,000 COVID-19 infections — the vast majority of India’s daily total of 31,222.