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India Celebrates Stopping a Deadly Virus Outbreak With a Bollywood-Inspired Music Video

Why Global Citizens Should Care
Disease outbreaks have the largest consequences for people living in poverty with little to no access to health care. With early intervention, many health epidemics, like the Nipah virus outbreak in India, can be avoided. You can join us by taking action to increase access to adequate and affordable health care here.

The deadly, incurable Nipah virus has been on the rise in the Indian state of Kerala, where it has already claimed more than a dozen lives. But the country is already mobilizing to fight back against the virus — and it's succeeding.

Kozhikode, the third-largest city in India, was declared Nipah-free after no new cases were reported after May 31, and to celebrate, musicians and filmmakers got together to make a Bollywood-style music video about the life-threatening virus.

Shaji Kumar, who wrote the lyrics, told NPR that “the song was an effort to reclaim and celebrate our public space after the threat of the epidemic almost shut the city down in fear.”

Take Action: Call on Canadian Ministers to Commit to Global Health Security

India, a country with 1.3 billion people, is ripe for the outbreak of a deadly virus, like the Nipah virus, which can be transmitted through contact with fruit bats and from human to human. However, India was able to squelch the Nipah epidemic, which became a major concern in May. According to The New York Times, the disease has infected at least 18 people and killed 17.

The Nipah virus is a rare disease that attacks the brain and can send an individual into a coma within 24 hours. There is no vaccine or cure for the disease yet.

Dr. R. Gopkakumar, the health officer responsible for leading the task force to halt the spread of the virus, says that the virus can be traced to a small village in Soopikada in the region of Changaroth. He told NPR that he experienced “the most challenging and heartbreaking days of his career” during the peak period of the outbreak in May. But their success containing the virus reflects the strength of Kerala's public health system.

The celebratory music video uses scenes from daily life in the city in malls, beaches, restaurants and main streets. It also showcases local doctors, nurses and health care workers.

Read More: This Rare, Infectious Disease Has Killed 14 People So Far

This recent Nipah outbreak began with two men, Muhammad Salih and Muhammad Sabit, who became sick after cleaning out an abandoned, bat-infested well.

In 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that the Nipah virus is a “priority disease.” Nipah was first identified in 1999, when a mysterious disease struck farmers in Malaysia. It was transmitted through contact with pigs infected after eating fruits that had been contaminated with saliva and urine from bats. The virus has little effect on bats but can be fatal for piglets and have severe symptoms for adult pigs.

The mortality rate in humans for the outbreak in Malaysia was 40% according to NPR. In order to prevent the disease from spreading, the government slaughtered more than 1 million pigs in 1999. Since then, India has had multiple outbreaks, both times in West Bengal in 2001 and 2007 and a total of 50 people died.

However, India is defeating the virus "with strength and determination," as the song's lyrics say. "We won’t break down. We won’t ever tire. Bye bye Nipah!”