A virus that is much more deadly than the COVID-19 virus has killed a young boy in India, according to that country’s health officials.
The 12-year-old was admitted to the hospital last week with the Nipah Virus, a zoonotic virus, or one that initially spreads between animals and people.
The boy was suffering with a high fever and what doctors suspected was brain inflammation. He died Sunday after he was diagnosed with Nipah.
According to health officials there, more than 188 people who came into contact with the boy when he was likely contagious are being tested, quarantined and, in some cases, hospitalized.
The virus has a mortality rate of between 40% and 70%. The COVID-19 virus, in comparison, has a mortality rate of 2%. There is no specific treatment for the virus.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the animal host for the virus is the fruit bat, and people are infected by either coming into contact with the bat, or with an animal that has come into contact with an infected bat.
People can also become infected if they have close contact with an infected animal’s saliva or urine, or have consumed food products that have been contaminated by body fluids of infected animals.
Once the virus has spread from animal to human, humans can spread it to other humans, the CDC says. Once the virus can spread from human to human, Nipah can become a pandemic, infecting people all over the world.
Nipah was discovered in 1999 following an outbreak of disease in pigs and people in Malaysia and Singapore, the CDC says. Of the nearly 300 human cases, 100 people died. More than 1 million pigs were killed to help control the outbreak.
Since its discovery, the disease has been seen almost annually in Malaysia and Singapore.
Symptoms of Nipah Virus typically appear four to 14 days following exposure to the virus, and include fever and headache. Those with the virus often begin to show signs of respiratory illness, such as cough, sore throat, and difficulty breathing, the CDC says.
A phase of brain swelling (encephalitis) may follow, where symptoms can include drowsiness, disorientation and mental confusion. Those symptoms can rapidly progress to coma within 24-48 hours.
Symptoms may initially include one or several of the following:
Severe symptoms may follow, such as:
Disorientation, drowsiness, or confusion.
Brain swelling (encephalitis).
Should you be concerned about the virus if you live in the U.S.?
So far, Nipah has only been seen in southeast Asia. A similar virus, Hendra, has been seen in Australia.
Should enough people be infected and the virus is able to spread person-to-person, a pandemic could be possible.
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