Amid Nipah virus scare, Kerala health minister K K Shailaja Friday met Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan to discuss the status and the administration’s preparedness for containment and management of the potentially deadly infection. Vardhan, who is regularly reviewing the public health measures put in place in Kerala, assured her of all support from the Centre.
“I am here to meet Dr Vardhan who has taken charge of the Health ministry and also update him about the status and the state’s preparedness to prevent the spread of the virus,” Shailaja told PTI. She further said that the condition of a 21-year-old college student, who was diagnosed with Nipah infection, is stable and a total of 314 people who were in touch with the infected person have been kept under observation.
“There have been no new cases,” she said. The Nipah virus had claimed 17 lives in the state in May last year. The Union Health Ministry has already deployed a six-member team comprising an epidemiologist and ICMR experts to conduct contact tracing for early detection of suspects and review of isolation facilities. Meanwhile, blood and serum samples of all seven suspected patients who were admitted to a quarantine facility at the Government Medical College in Kerala’s Ernakulam district have tested negative for the virus.
A designated control room has been established at the district collector’s office and an isolation ward established at the Government Medical College, Ernakulam, while isolation facilities have also been ensured at medical colleges at Calicut, Thrissur and Kottayam. All healthcare facilities have been asked to ensure high index of suspicion in cases with similar symptoms and also ensure availability of isolation and emergency management facilities before referral.
According to the World Health Organisation, 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. Symptoms range from asymptomatic infection, acute respiratory infection and encephalitis. Infected people initially develop influenza-like symptoms of fever, headache, vomiting and sore throat. This can be followed by dizziness, drowsiness, altered consciousness, and neurological signs that indicate acute encephalitis.