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Unknown virus kills eight in Kerala’s Kozhikode, Centre rushes team

The Kerala government has asked the Centre to send experts after four members of a family died on being infected with an unknown virus. Eight others are in serious condition and 25 are under observation.

kerala Updated: May 21, 2018 00:00 IST
Ramesh Babu
Ramesh Babu
Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram
Kerala deaths,mystery deaths in kerala,unknown virus
Three people have died of a mystery infection in Kerala. An official of the health department said six persons are serious and 25 are under observation. He said since the doctors can’t pinpoint the virus, patients are being treated with supportive medicines. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Union health minister JP Nadda on Sunday directed the director of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to visit Kerala’s Kozhikode district to assist the state government in the wake of deaths of eight people due to an unknown virus there.

“Reviewed the situation of deaths related to nipah virus in Kerala with secretary, health. I have directed director, NCDC to visit the district and initiate required steps as warranted by the protocol for the disease in consultation with the state government,” Nadda said in a tweet.

The Kerala government on Sunday urged the Centre to rush a team of experts after panic gripped many areas of the northern part of the state following the death of eight people in Perambra in Kozhikode district in the last two weeks after they were infected with an unknown virus.

An official of the health department said eight people are critical while 25 others are under observation. Kerala health minister KK Shailaja on Sunday said the cause of death remains to be ascertained, and urged people not to spread false news about a rare virus being responsible.

“The samples of the infected have been collected and sent to the National Institute of Virology (in Pune). We are expecting results in a couple of days.”

The health department has opened an isolation ward in Kozhikode medical college and hospital, and formed a task force headed by district collector UV Jose. The state government has also cancelled the leaves of the doctors and the paramedical staff, and has sought help from the private hospitals.

Among those undergoing treatment are a nurse who attended to one of the deceased and four other family members. Of the dead, three belong to a family — Mohammed Sadik, 26; his brother Mohamed Saliah, 28; and their paternal aunt Mariumma, 50. Three others of a family, who were on ventilators and who have not been identified yet, died on Sunday, officials said.

Virology experts from Manipal and Apollo hospitals have visited the area and collected blood samples of those affected.

An official has been deputed to prepare a list of those who interacted with the deceased and keep them under observation.

Meanwhile, doctors suspect it may be viral encephalitis-induced myocarditis (a disease marked by inflammation and damage of the heart muscle). But they are not sure about how the virus spread, and suspect it could have through birds or animals. People have been advised not to eat fruits and other food items bitten by birds or animals.

(With PTI inputs)

First Published: May 20, 2018 15:00 IST