As more samples test negative for Nipah, Kerala almost out of danger: Minister
As more samples tested negative for Nipah virus, Kerala health minister Veena George on Wednesday said the north Kerala district of Kozhikode is almost out of the danger zone of a serious threat, but strict vigil will continue for 21 days.
Talking to mediapersons in Kozhikode, the minister said so far 30 samples tested negative for Nipah--all close contacts of the 12-year-old boy who died of the virus last week--including his parents and relatives.
“It is a great relief that all samples tested negative. But we will not lower our guard. All restrictions will be in force till the window period of the virus (three weeks) are over,” she said, adding 21 more results are expected in the evening. Since a majority of immediate contacts tested negative, the government feels that worst is over.
She said going by the preliminary reports, bats are suspected to be the main carrier of the virus, but more studies are needed to pinpoint the exact trigger. Many experts said the affected areas are also infested with wild boars and their samples will also be taken for testing.
A team from the National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases Laboratory from Bhopal will co-ordinate more such studies, she said. Forest minister AK Saseendran, who is also camping in the city, said special permission will be granted to capture boars and other animals for testing. Samples of domestic animals and pets were also taken to weed out suspicion, he said.
Experts said the strict protocol in place due to Covid-19, like masking, physical distancing and no overcrowding, really helped the state blunt the impact of Nipah. “Due to Covid-19 protocols, this time Nipah transmission will be limited. Prevention of Covid-19 really helped fight Nipah also,” said immunologist and public health expert D Padmanabha Shenoy. Many experts like him said the main source of the virus should be identified to check its further outbreak. This is the third time the state is witnessing the onset of virus in four years--in 2018 it claimed 17 lives in Kozhikode, in 2019 a youth was infected in Ernakulam but later cured and in 2021, the virus has claimed the life of a 12-year-old boy in Kozhikode.
Many experts have asked the government to develop an integrated multi-disciplinary approach to tackle repeated incidents of zoonotic infections and set up high-tech animal and virus testing labs. Many zoonotic diseases such as Sars, avian influenza, swine flu and monkey fever have been reported in the state in recent years.