A 23-year-old man has tested positive for the deadly Nipah virus and another shifted to an isolation ward in Kerala’s Ernakulam, the state’s health minister KK Shailaja said on Tuesday, as the government rushed to put protocols in place to deal with the situation.
This comes a year after an outbreak of Nipah virus infection in the southern state when 17 people had died in north Kerala.
India’s top diagnostic lab, National Institute of Virology in Pune, confirmed the presence of the virus in the engineering graduate, who complained of fever and headaches for ten days before being checked.
Another man was shifted to an isolation ward of a private hospital in Ernakulam as four others were kept under observation. Two nurses, who treated the first victim, have developed high fever and are also among the 86 people under observation so far. The condition of the affected people is stated to be stable.
The virus that causes high fever, headache and coma in extreme cases is spread by fruit bats. Body fluids can cause human-to-human transmission of Nipah, which has a mortality rate of 70% and has no vaccine.
The health minister said everything is under control as the state government reiterated that there was no need for any panic. The state’s health secretary Rajan Gobragade said the origin of the virus has not yet been detected yet.
Confirming the development, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that the state’s health network is equipped for the challenge it is facing. “Nipah infection has been confirmed in one person who is undergoing treatment for fever. CM has informed that our health network is ready to rise up to the challenge. Under the supervision of the Health Minister, all necessary preparations have been taken,” CMO Kerala tweeted on Tuesday.
Nipah infection has been confirmed in one person who is undergoing treatment for fever. CM has informed that our health network is ready to rise up to the challenge. Under the supervision of the Health Minister, all necessary preparations have been taken.
— CMO Kerala (@CMOKerala) June 4, 2019
A six-member team from New Delhi’s AIIMS reached Kochi as isolation wards were opened in Idukki and Thodupuzha. Hectic efforts are onto localise the virus and contain it as KK Shailaja said the next two weeks are very crucial.
KK Shailaja had said on Monday morning that the man tested positive for the virus at the Kerala State Institute of Virology and Infectious Diseases in Alappuzha. But she retracted her statement in the evening, saying that his symptoms were “Nipah -like”.
Hospitals have opened fever clinics and isolation wards in Kozhikode, Thrissur, and Ernakulam to deal with the situation. Doctors, who treated Nipah patients in Kozhikode last year, have been moved to Kochi. Help has also been sought from experts at Karnataka’s Manipal Institute of Virology.
Since the usual incubation period or the interval from infection to the onset of symptoms ranges from 4 to 14 days, people who have been in contact with the 23-year-old over the past two weeks have been asked to get screened.
Thrissur’s district medical officer, K G Reena, said on Monday that a list of 50 people, including medical professionals who treated the patient, has been made and they will be under observation for two weeks.
Two relatives, who were in close contact with the patient, have also been quarantined. The patient’s father said he developed a fever when he was interning in Thrissur 10 days ago.
The experience of containing last year’s outbreak has helped in formulating a faster response this year, said state health department officials.
The outbreak in May last year had claimed 17 lives, including that of a nurse Lini Puthussery, who was part of a team treating one of the patients. The outbreak was localised in two districts and contained within two weeks.