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Man tests positive as Kerala braces for Nipah emergency

The Nipah outbreak in May last year had claimed 17 lives, including that of a nurse who was part of a team treating one of the patients.

india Updated: Jun 04, 2019 23:25 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Kochi
Kerala,Nipah,Nipah-like symptoms
Health officials at an isolation ward of Ernakulam Medical College in Kochi, Tuesday, June 4, 2019. (PTI)

The brain-damaging Nipah virus has resurfaced in Kerala a year after it killed 17 people in the state, with a 23-year-old student testing positive for the virus in Kochi on Tuesday and 311 people being kept under observation to stop the disease from spreading, officials said.

Kerala health minister KK Shailaja told reporters that four other people developed Nipah-like symptoms. The virus is transmitted to humans through direct contact with infected bats, pigs or other people. A statement by the Kerala health department said that 311 people, including some who were in close contact with the student, were under observation.

Two of the patient’s friends and two nurses who treated him have been shifted to isolation wards at the Kalamassery Medical College Hospital in Kochi. The others have been quarantined at their houses to prevent the disease from spreading, the government said.

“The condition of the victim is stable and he is responding well to treatment. What we need now is precaution and not unnecessary fear or panic… we are well prepared,” the Kerala health minister, who is camping in the port city, said. Shailaja said she was in constant touch with Union health minister Harsh Vardhan. She has called a review meeting on the issue on Wednesday.

The Nipah outbreak in May last year had claimed 17 lives, including that of a nurse who was part of a team treating one of the patients. The outbreak was localised in two districts, Kozhikode and Malappuram, and contained within two weeks then.

Speaking in New Delhi, Harsh Vardhan said that the health and wildlife ministries were working to test and identify bats with the virus. “There is no need for panic,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Pune’s National Institute of Virology, India’s top diagnostic lab, confirmed the presence of the virus in the engineering graduate, who complained of fever and headaches for 10 days before being tested. Samples of five other people will be sent to the institute on Wednesday.

Shailaja said the condition of the student, who is being treated at the private hospital in Kochi, is stable and he was not put under any support system. The student, who hails from North Paravur in Ernakulam district, is studying in a college in Thodupuzha in Idukki district. “Good care is being given to the patient. The patient sometimes becomes restless due to fever...We expect a good result,” she said.

Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the state was prepared to tackle the disease, which has no vaccine. He said strict action will be taken against those who spread misinformation about the spread of the virus.

Body fluids can cause human-to-human transmission of Nipah, which has a mortality rate of 70%. The state’s health secretary Rajan Gobragade said the source of the virus has not yet been detected.

A six-member team from New Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) reached Kochi as isolation wards were opened in two more districts, Thrissur and Idukki, besides Ernakulam.

A control room has been set up and the Strategic Health Operations Centre (SHOC) of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has been activated, a health ministry statement said in New Delhi.

According to the WHO, Nipah virus is a newly emerging disease that can be transmitted from its reservoir (natural wildlife host), the flying foxes (fruit bats), to both animals and humans. It takes its name from Sungai Nipah, a village in Malaysia where it was first identified.

With inputs from agencies

First Published: Jun 04, 2019 23:25 IST