Nipah virus: Centre rushes six-member team to Kerala after college student tests positive of deadly disease

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New Delhi | Published: June 4, 2019 3:34:34 PM

The Centre Tuesday rushed a six-member team to Kerala after a college student was confirmed to be infected with the potentially deadly Nipah virus, which had claimed 17 lives in the state 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.

The Centre Tuesday rushed a six-member team to Kerala after a college student was confirmed to be infected with the potentially deadly Nipah virus, which had claimed 17 lives in the state in May last year. Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan also spoke to state Health Minister K K Shailaja to discuss the current situation and assured all support from the Centre to the state.

The Health Ministry said the six-member team comprising an epidemiologist has been sent to the state to conduct contact tracing for early detection of suspects and review of isolation facilities. A control room has also been set up and the Strategic Health Operations Centre (SHOC) of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has been activated, phone number for which is 011-23978046, a health ministry statement stated. According to state government figures, the Nipah virus had claimed 17 lives — 14 in Kozhikode and three in neighbouring Malappuram in May last year.

A 23-year-old college student has been confirmed to be infected with the Nipah virus while 86 others are under medical observation, Shailaja Tuesday said. The state health minister added that the student, who is being treated at a private hospital here, is stable and he was not put under any support system like ventilator. The infected student from Ernakulam district is studying in Thodupuzha in Idukki district.

Harsh Vardhan said,”I have assured all possible support from the central government. We are also in touch with the wildlife and forest department as the testing of bats for the virus have to be carried out. I do not think there is any need to panic.” Vardhan also held a meeting with the ministry officials here to review the preparations. “A central team of six officers has already reached for epidemiological investigation protocol, contact tracing for early detection of suspects, testing protocols for suspects and review of isolation facilities,” the statement said.

A team from National Institute of Virology in Pune (ICMR) with monoclonal antibodies is being sent to Ernakullam, where the patient resided while another team for testing bats for Nipah virus will be dispatched on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the Kerala government has initiated contact tracing and surveillance, standard capacity building for health functionaries, ambulance fleet drivers and others along with infection control activities in hospitals.

Besides, rapid response teams at institutions have been constituted while a Help desk at Medical College Ernakulam has been established. A list of 86 people, who have interacted with the student has been prepared and they are under medical observation. Out of the 86, two are suffering from fever and one has been shifted to the isolation ward set up at the Kalamassery Medical College Hospital in Kochi, Shailaja said.

On May 19, 2018, Nipah virus disease (NiV) outbreak was reported from Kozhikode in Malappuram district. According to the World Health Organisation (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.

Symptoms 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.

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