In the wake of the ridiculously damaging impact the COVID-19 lockdowns had on the country, regardless of speculations, there is no lockdown on the cards for South Africa, following the outbreak of the Nipah Virus in India.
The discussion gained traction after South African musician, entrepreneur, and radio presenter DJ Sbu took to social media on Tuesday, 18 September 2023, urging the public to brace themselves for another lockdown and prepare for challenging times, drawing parallels to situations in other countries.
Referring to the current outbreak of the Nipah virus in the Indian state of Kerala, where two fatalities and hundreds of tests are being conducted on people in the area to ascertain the extent of the virus, DJ Sbu’s tweet elicited mixed reactions. It’s noteworthy that his statement was made more as a precautionary measure than an official declaration.
However, the question remains, should South Africans be on high alert?
The National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) has not recorded any cases of Nipah in South Africa. The focus of the health institute remains on addressing a measles outbreak within the country. Currently, there is no immediate threat of the Nipah virus spreading within South Africa, as the outbreak seems to be contained to India.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) elucidated on the Nipah virus, underscoring its zoonotic nature, indicating transmission from animals to humans, and also through contaminated food or direct human to human contact.
“In infected people, it causes a range of illnesses from asymptomatic (subclinical) infection to acute respiratory illness and fatal encephalitis (inflammation of the active tissues of the brain). The virus can also cause severe disease in animals such as pigs, resulting in significant economic losses for farmers.
According to WHO, the signs and symptoms of the virus are as follows:
- Human infections range from asymptomatic infection to acute respiratory infection (mild, severe), and fatal encephalitis.
- Infected people initially develop symptoms including fever, headaches, myalgia (muscle pain), vomiting and sore throat. This can be followed by dizziness, drowsiness, altered consciousness, and neurological signs that indicate acute encephalitis. Some people can also experience atypical pneumonia and severe respiratory problems, including acute respiratory distress. Encephalitis and seizures occur in severe cases, progressing to coma within 24 to 48 hours.
- The incubation period (interval from infection to the onset of symptoms) is believed to range from 4 to 14 days. However, an incubation period as long as 45 days has been reported.
- Most people who survive acute encephalitis make a full recovery, but long term neurologic conditions have been reported in survivors. Approximately 20% of patients are left with residual neurological consequences such as seizure disorder and personality changes. A small number of people who recover subsequently relapse or develop delayed onset encephalitis.
- The case fatality rate is estimated at 40% to 75%. This rate can vary by outbreak depending on local capabilities for epidemiological surveillance and clinical management.
Furthermore, it is vital to emphasise that, presently, no cases of the Nipah virus have been reported outside India.
The outbreak remains contained within the southern state of Kerala, prompting the health ministry to swiftly respond with measures including school and office closures and declaring containment zones.
Given the absence of further global cases, it is imperative to discourage panic and the dissemination of potentially alarming messages. Instead, we encourage the public to stay informed and adhere to the guidance provided by health authorities.
We invite you to share your thoughts on this matter in the comment section below.