Finding source of deadly Nipah viral infection focus of government team
As a 23-year-old man in Kerala’s Ernakulam tested positive for Nipah viral infection, the government’s focus now is to determine the source of the infection, a Union health ministry official said.
“The expert team working on the ground is trying to establish how the man got infected; whether it was a human-to-human transmission or bats-to-human transmission,” said the official requesting anonymity.
The Union health ministry has also sent a team of experts from Pune’s National Institute of Virology (NIV) for conducting tests in and around Ernakulam district on bats that are known to be the carriers of the virus.
The experts in the government are not calling the disease endemic yet even though Nipah virus infection has been reported from Kerala for a second year.
“The disease is certainly not endemic as of now. It is not even an outbreak as only one case has been confirmed so far from the country. If it is a new disease, then even a single confirmed case is an outbreak, but Nipah has been around for a while and so cannot be called an outbreak,” said the official.
“By definition for a disease to be called endemic, a minimum number of cases has to be reported across all seasons such as in case of dengue, malaria etc that are reported even in non seasons. This is not the case with Nipah yet.”
Union health minister Harshvardhan held meetings with experts from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and ministry officials. “I had a meeting with all officers in the morning, including the health secretary and director general, ICMR. Yesterday a team of six senior officers, including epidemiologists and scientists, reached Kerala. I am in touch with Kerala’s health minister and have offered every possible help,” he said. The Centre has set up a control room New Delhi to monitor the situation.
“The state government is making arrangements for surveillance and contact tracing. So far, 80 contacts have been traced and as per protocol, and whosoever gets fever will be tested. We are also following the illness of the one case who tested positive on confirmation from NIV late last night. There is no need to panic. Whatever needs to be done scientifically is being done,” said Harshvardhan.