Deadly Nipah virus returns to hound Kerala, 12-year-old boy dies
A 12-year-old boy died after contracting the Nipah virus in north Kerala’s Kozhikode on Sunday, triggering fear of a possible outbreak of another deadly virus while the state is still struggling to contain the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
State health minister Veena George said all three samples of the boy were found to be positive for Nipah virus by the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune. At least 18 close contacts, mainly relatives and health workers, of the boy and 150 secondary contacts were identified and quarantined. Among the first group two health workers later showed symptoms of Nipah, the minister said.
“There is no need to panic. But strict vigil is the need of the hour. We have a strict Nipah protocol and we will go by that,” said the minister in Kozhikode after attending a high-powered meeting also attended by two other ministers, A K Saseendran and Mohamad Riyaz.
The minister said the boy was initially admitted to a government hospital but later shifted to a private hospital with high fever a week ago. In the beginning he was suspected to be suffering from brain fever but later samples were rushed to the NIV for further testing. The boy died in the early hours of Sunday. She said all relatives of the boy and all those involved in his treatment were put under quarantine.
Some of the relatives of the boy later complained that though the victim showed symptoms for many days, medical college authorities failed to test his samples. When the fever did not subside they shifted him to a private hospital which sent samples for testing immediately. The minister said the government will inquire into the possible lapse.
The Union Health Ministry has also rushed a team from the National Centre for Diseases Control, Delhi and NIV Pune has decided to set up a virology laboratory at the Kozhikode medical college hospital to speed up tests. A control room has also been set up in the city. The minister said she will camp in the city and the route map of the boy will be published soon. Later the deceased was buried under strict Nipah protocol in a public burial ground in the city.
State health authorities said they have no idea about the source of infection but like earlier cases fruit bats are suspected. Like Coivd-19, isolation and quarantine are the best options to contain Nipah virus but its fatality rate is very high, said experts. A zoonotic disease triggered by a pathogen (an infectious agent of virus) it can be transmitted from animals to humans through body fluid and human to humans through fluids, said experts.
“The situation is not like 2018 when we were totally in the dark. Since a majority of people are observing physical distance and masking it can be contained effectively,” said critical care expert Dr A S Anoop Kumar, who played a key role during the 2018 outbreak which claimed 17 lives in Kozhikode but later it was localised and contained effectively. Following the fresh detection of another virus, a high alert has been sounded in two neighbouring districts, Kannur and Malappuram. Former health minister K K Shailaja also said contact tracing is the key in containing the virus.
An unknown virus with no medicine or history of treatment and very little information about the carrier, made health experts hit a blind alley in the initial stages of the outbreak in 2018. But they fought back and contained its secondary infection and nursed back two Nipah-positive persons (Ajanya, a nursing student and Ubeesh, a male nurse) back to life, though the deadly virus claimed 17 lives in a span of ten days. Lini, a young nurse who treated the initial patient, was among the dead.