Kerala’s health minister confirmed on Tuesday the 23-year-old college student in Kochi had Nipah virus. KK Shailaja said the state government had received confirmation from the National Institute of Virology in Pune.
While calling for people to be cautious, Shailaja said the government’s first priority was to prevent the spread of the disease and then to find its source.
According to Malayala Manorama, four people, including two nurses who were treating the student may have contracted the disease. The NewsMinute reports the two nurses are being treated after they complained of discomfort in the throat.
Eighty-six people who interacted with the patient are under observation and an isolation ward has been set up at the Ernakulam Medical College, KK Shailaja told reporters on Monday.
Manorama reports a control room has been set up for people to seek assistance — the numbers are 1077 and 1056.
Union health minister Harsh Vardhan said he had reviewed the situation and sent a team to the state.
Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday had tweeted, “While we need to be cautious, it is no cause for panic. We have ramped up a series of measures to tackle the problem; contact tracing, case isolation, quality care & community engagement are being done diligently. Care must be taken to not spread rumours over social media.”
The Kerala Health department had on Monday initiated precautionary measures to deal with the possible outbreak of Nipah virus.
Shailaja said in Thiruvananthapuram the 23-year-old college student suspected of having the Nipah virus was admitted to a private hospital in Kochi.
The minister rushed to Kochi after briefing Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan about the development. She chaired a high-level meeting with top health officials and people’s representatives to review the situation.
Addressing the media after the meeting, she said the samples were sent to the State Institute of Virology and Infectious Diseases in Alappuzha for examination and it was found that the student was infected with a virus having similarities with Nipah.
Instilling confidence among the people, the minister said there was no need for any concern and the government, which successfully battled the Nipah outbreak in Kozhikode and Malappuram districts last year, was fully capable of dealing with the situation.
The minister appealed to social media users not to create panic among the public.
Govt preps to tackle possible outbreak
Medical experts from Kozhikode are in Kochi and there are enough medicines and medical equipment to deal with the situation, she said.
Health workers were being imparted training in case the test in Pune institute is positive and more cases are reported.
She said a list of 86 people the student had come in contact with was prepared. They were under observation and will report to the nearest medical facility if they develop influenza-like symptoms like fever, headache, myalgia (muscle pain), vomiting and sore throat, she said. No such complaints had been reported from them till Monday, the minister said.
Ernakulam district collector Mohammed Y Saffirulla said surveillance teams have been constituted to monitor the suspected Nipah cases.
A facility to quarantine patients with suspected symptoms has been arranged at Kalamassery Medical College Hospital.
Health authorities in Thrissur said the student, who was suffering from fever, had sought medical assistance at two private hospitals in Thrissur city when he had come to Kochi for a training programme recently as part of his course.
He is studying in Thodupuzha in Idukki district.
Thrissur district medical officer Dr Reena said the student was in Thrissur only for four days and had been suffering from fever.
There were 16 other students with him and six of them, who came in direct contact with him, were under observation. Besides, the people who had come in contact with the student were also under watch, the DMO said.
Officials said the family and neighbours of the young man, who hails from Ernakulam district, and the college in Thodupuzha, where he is studying, were also under observation.
The Health minister said there was no need for people to panic as the government has taken all precautionary measures and asked private hospitals to inform them if suspected cases were reported.
The last outbreak
On 19 May 2018, Nipah virus disease (NiV) outbreak was reported from Kozhikode in Malappuram district.
As per state government figures, the Nipah virus had claimed 17 lives ― 14 in Kozhikode and three in neighbouring Malappuram in May last year.
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.
Human infection can range from asymptomatic infection, acute respiratory infection (mild, severe), and fatal encephalitis. Infected people initially develop influenza-like symptoms of fever, headache, myalgia, vomiting and sore throat.
This can be followed by dizziness, drowsiness, altered consciousness, and neurological signs that indicate acute encephalitis.
Some people can also experience atypical pneumonia and severe respiratory problems, including acute respiratory distress. Encephalitis and seizures occur in severe cases, progressing to coma within 24 to 48 hours.
Last year, the WHO had said, “In the outbreak in Kerala, we are seeing patients with encephalitis, myocarditis and acute respiratory infection.”
(With PTI inputs)