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World

REUTERS
May 23, 2018

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Nipah virus claims 10 lives in India

BENGALURU/KOCHI: A rare virus spread by fruit bats, which can cause flu-like symptoms and brain damage, has killed 10 people in southern India, health officials said on Tuesday, with at least nine more being treated.

Infectious disease outbreaks can be a challenge in India, the world’s second most populous country, where infection control and surveillance systems are weak, leading to hundreds of deaths annually from diseases such as mosquito-borne dengue. There is no vaccine for the Nipah virus, which is spread through body fluids and can cause encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says. The usual treatment is to provide supportive care.

The first death in the outbreak in Kerala took place on Friday, the state’s health minister, K K Shailaja, said. "This is a new situation for us. We have no prior experience in dealing with the Nipah virus," she said. "We are hopeful we can put a stop to the outbreak".

Of 18 people screened for the virus, 12 proved positive, Shailaja told a news conference, adding that 10 of the sufferers had died and the other two were being closely monitored. The Indian government dispatched a team of officials from the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to investigate the outbreak, it said in a statement.

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