India’s 1st coronavirus case detected in Kerala
A Kerala resident who was studying in China and returned last week tested positive for the novel coronavirus (NCoV-2019), state health minister KK Shailaja said on Thursday, announcing India’s first case of the new pathogen that has killed 170 people and set off a worldwide alarm.
The woman, a medical student at a university in Wuhan — the city suspected to be the epicentre of the outbreak, is stable and undergoing treatment in an isolation ward at a general hospital in Thrissur, the minister said without disclosing her identity.
She will be shifted to the Thrissur Medical College hospital, where a complete block has been converted into an isolation ward, according to a statement from the general hospital.
Her biological samples were tested at the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune, India’s apex virology lab that functions under the Union home ministry.
Of the 49 samples tested so far at the lab, one has been tested posted, according to NIV director Priya Abraham.
“The positive sample belongs to a student from Kerala who was studying in Wuhan... Now, a ‘next-gen sequencing test’ will be done on her sample and the final result will be declared by tomorrow [Friday] evening. Per day, a total of 9-10 samples are received at NIV for testing,” Abraham said in a statement.
While the first test has confirmed that the student’s samples contain the novel coronavirus, the second test will be held to find out if it is the same virus that was isolated in Wuhan or whether it has mutated.
Back in Kerala, Shailaja chaired an emergency meeting after the Union health ministry informed the government about detecting the coronavirus in the student’s samples.
Altogether 1,053 people are under observation and 15 persons are in isolation wards in Kerala, according to the state health ministry.
“We have confirmation that one of the students who came from Wuhan is positive. She is admitted in an isolation ward in Thrissur general hospital, her condition is stable now. A team of expert doctors have examined her,” Shailaja, who was expected to reach Thrissur on Thursday evening, said at a press conference.
Three others, who had returned from China, too, are in isolation wards in Thrissur, Shailaja said.
There is no need to panic as a rapid response team is already at work to identify persons the student interacted after reaching home, she said. Once identified, these people will be put under observation for symptoms, and quarantined if needed.
As the country reported its first case, the Union health ministry said all travellers from China who have arrived since January 15 will have to undergo tests even if they do not have the symptoms, a directive that came hours before India was expected to evacuate the first batch of citizens stuck in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province.
A second aircraft will be dispatched subsequently to bring out Indians who are living in other parts of the province.
After cabinet secretary Rajiv Gauba held a high-level review meeting involving the health, external affairs, defence and home ministries, among others, in New Delhi, the health ministry also issued a fresh advisory asking people with a travel history to China to take precaution for at least 14 days after their return.
The advisory asked such people to sleep in a separate room, limit contact with other family members and avoid visitors.
The virus, which has killed 170 people — all in China, is said to have originated from a seafood market in Wuhan. The coronavirus is a large family of viruses that causes illnesses ranging from common cold to acute respiratory syndromes, but the virus that has killed people in China is a new strain.
On Thursday, China’s National Health Commission said 7,711 people had been infected by the novel coronavirus. Outside China there have been at around 100 infections.
Meanwhile, New Delhi’s Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) Hospital admitted five more suspected cases of the novel coronavirus. All five — four men and a woman — have returned from China.
(With inputs from HTC in Delhi and Agencies)