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Thursday, Aug 22, 2019

No fresh Nipah case as Kerala fights hard to contain any outbreak

Kerala health minister KK Shailaja told reporters that serum and blood samples of five people, who were shifted to isolation wards, will be sent to the National Institute of Virology in Pune.

india Updated: Jun 06, 2019 00:01 IST
Ramesh Babu
Ramesh Babu
There are no drugs or vaccines that can combat the Nipah virus, which kills 40-70% of the people infected.
There are no drugs or vaccines that can combat the Nipah virus, which kills 40-70% of the people infected.(PTI File Photo)

No fresh case of deadly Nipah virus infection has been reported in Kerala on Wednesday as the southern state is fighting hard to contain a possible outbreak.

Fear gripped the state after a 23-year-old engineering graduate tested positive for the virus in Kochi on Tuesday. Five persons who showed symptoms of Nipah were later shifted to isolation wards and 311 others who were in contact with the patient were kept under observation to stop the disease from spreading.

“Everything is under control. But we can’t lower our guard. Next two weeks are crucial,” said Kerala health minister KK Shailaja. “Health workers have fanned out in suspected areas to sensitize people and to identify the primary source of virus. We will contain it effectively,” she said, adding chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan has called a meeting in Kochi on Thursday to review the situation.

The brain-damaging Nipah virus is transmitted to humans through direct contact with infected bats, pigs or other people. Shailaja said serum and blood samples of five suspected patients were sent to the National Institute of Virology in Pune and results are expected in a couple of days. She also said the first patient is responding well to treatment and is not under life support system. The next two weeks are crucial, she said requesting all not to lower their guard. She has been camping in the port city for past two days.

The minister said more monoclonal antibodies drugs, the preventive medicine for Nipah virus infection, have been brought from Pune. Imported from Australia, these drugs were found to be effective to an extent last year when the virus struck in Kozhikode claiming 17 lives.

The health department is planning to collect details of all deaths from three districts — Ernakulam, Thrissur and Idukki— in past three weeks. People have been asked to report all deaths as a result of fever, and not to cremate bodies without their consent. By doing so it can arrive at a conclusion that engineering graduate’s case was an index one, a senior health official said.

Health experts said a recurrence can be an annual affair as environmentalists blamed rapid deforestation which forced fruit bats to move to human settlements. Two teams from Delhi, one from AIIMS and another from National Centre for Disease Control, are camping in Kochi.

Symptoms of Nipah, which include fever, headache, myalgia [muscle pain], vomiting and sore throat. These symptoms can be followed by dizziness, drowsiness, delirium, neurological deficits and breathing difficulty as the disease progresses. There are no drugs or vaccines that can combat the virus, which has a morbidity rate of more than 70%. Fruit bats, better known as flying foxes, are natural hosts of the virus. Experts from National Institute of Virology also conducting tests in and around Ernakulam district on bats to locate the primary source of infection.

Also read: All you need to know about the Nipah Virus

Experts are not calling the disease endemic though Nipah virus infection was reported for a second year. “Last year in Kozhikkode, other than a case of primary transmission of virus from bat to humans, all other transmissions took place from human to human. That is really dangerous. This time since we took enough precautions, damage can be limited,” said Dr G Arun Kumar, head of the Manipal Centre for Virus Research, who played a key role to check the outbreak last year.

“The virus could have been there in Kerala for many years. There were many mysterious fever deaths earlier. Nipah could have been the cause...,” he said.

The Aster Medcity Hospital in Kochi, where the Nipah patient is admitted, released a medical bulletin saying he is conscious and taking food but has mild disorientation.

First Published: Jun 05, 2019 11:48 IST

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