Health organizations are trying to contain an outbreak of the Nipah virus that has a much higher death rate than Covid and causes vomiting, seizures and brain swelling.
A young Indian boy was killed by the illness and there are fears it could cause the next worldwide pandemic, heightened by the fact that Nipah has a very high rate of mutation.
According to the World Heath Organisation, Nipah’s mortality rate ranges between 40 and 75% compared to Covid’s 1%.
“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 said.
Officials in India’s Kerala state are concerned after the 12-year-old died at the weekend, prompting efforts to trace his contacts with new infections already confirmed.
According to reports, the boy had visited two other hospitals before he died, meaning he potentially came close to hundreds of people.
The boy’s immediate contacts have been tested but are all negative.
State health minister Veena George said: “That these eight immediate contacts tested negative is a great relief.”
Nipah has been listed by the WHO as a dangerous virus that needs researching further
The fruit bat-borne disease, which first jumped from pigs to farmers in Malaysia in 1999, has an incubation period of up to 45 days, meaning a person could spread it for more than a month before falling sick.
There is no cure or vaccine for Nipah yet. Patients are only given supportive medical care.
Dr Melanie Saville, head of vaccine research and development at the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, earlier told The Sun: “Nipah is one of the viruses that could absolutely be the cause of a new pandemic. Several things about Nipah are very concerning.
“Most crucially, we shouldn’t just be looking at Nipah.
“We know that a future pandemic is inevitable, and there are many other emerging infectious diseases that are recognised as having pandemic potential.”