Seventeen people have died in the Indian state Kerala from the Nipah virus (NiV), a disease that causes acute respiratory syndrome and fatal encephalitis (swelling of the brain). There is no vaccine for Nipah virus.
It is spread primarily by fruit bats, and is transmitted to humans “through secretions from the bat to the fruit it feeds on or touches.” According to the CDC, transmission to humans can also occur “after direct contact with infected bats, infected pigs, or from other NiV infected people.” Person to person transmission is commonly seen among family and caregivers of someone infected. Papers report that a nurse who was treating victims recently died of the disease herself.
Fruits and vegetables imported from the state of Kerala have been banned and the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention has also issued a travel warning. State Health Minister KK Shailaja says that although it seems the first wave of the outbreak may be over, people should prepare for a second wave:
“The presence of Nipah virus can be confirmed only when the affected people show symptoms. So it is very essential for the affected people to be alert till their incubation period is over…The government has made elaborate arrangements to check the spread of the disease and the people who closely engaged with the Nipah infected people should avoid public gatherings and meeting till the end of the incubation period.”
Health officials in New York are making sure people are aware that an Australian tourist with measles visited multiple hotels and the Metropolitan Museum of Art earlier this month. Measles is incredibly contagious and is spread through the air via coughing and sneezing. According to the CDC, the virus can survive in the air for up to two hours. Symptoms usually begin 7 to 14 days after exposure and may include high fever and cough, followed by a rash. Measles may cause serious complications, like pneumonia and encephalitis, which are more likely to lead to death in young children. The vaccine’s effectiveness rate is around 90%.
In the United States and elsewhere, lower vaccine rates have been associated with the anti-vaccine movement, led by people who mistakenly believe vaccines cause autism. I have no doubt the government is out to get us, and I am all for conspiracy theories, but that’s not what is happening here. The Washington Post notes:
Despite global efforts to combat the disease, measles has remained a serious threat, mostly to children in the developing world. In 2016, there were 89,780 measles deaths worldwide, the first year the figure dipped below six figures, the World Health Organization said…
The disease has sometimes roared back in the United States in incidents tied to anti-vaxxer efforts. For instance, MMR vaccines in Somali communities in Minnesota dropped 50 percentage points from 2004 to 2014 because of activist work there, sparking the worst measles outbreak in the state in three decades.