Nipah: Centre deploys 6-member team to Kerala

V Sajeev Kumar Maitri Porecha Kochi/New Delhi | Updated on June 04, 2019

As many as 86 people who came into contact with the youth after he contracted the Nipah virus have been placed under observation

Four more suspected cases; antidote from NIV being rushed to Ernakulam

After a 23-year-old student was confirmed to have been infected with the Nipah virus in Kerala, State and Central governments have swung into action to control the re-emergence of the deadly disease.

The official confirmation came on Tuesday morning from the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune. Besides the confirmed case, four suspected cases were declared on Tuesday by the State Health Minister, KK Shylaja. 

Two of these are nurses: one, a relative of the patient and the other, a friend or acquaintance. The Minister also said that the confirmed patient is stable so far. Nipah can be transmitted from animals to humans. It can also spread through contaminated food and directly from one human to another. 

Last year, Nipah had claimed 17 lives in Kerala. 

A Union Health Ministry official said: “We received the confirmation that the 23-year-old has been infected with Nipah at 3 am on June 4.”

Following this, Union Minister of Health Harsh Vardhan held an urgent meeting at his residence with health officials of the Central government to take stock of the situation.

Tracking the virus

The patient had navigated through three districts – Thrissur, Idukki and Ernakulum – before being diagnosed accurately. The official further said: “He, along with a group of friends, was pursuing an internship at a polytechnic institute. He developed symptoms there and then travelled from one health facility to another, without being treated appropriately. He went home in the interim before landing up at a private facility in Ernakulum.”

Nipah symptoms include sore throat, muscle pain, fever, vomiting, and breathing difficulties, and patients may enter coma in 24-48 hours, according to the World Health Organisation.

While the virus has no vaccine or drug which works infallibly to cure, Balram Bhargava, Director of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), said that monoclonal antibodies have shown to be effective in some cases. “Following last year’s cases of Nipah in Kerala, the ICMR had procured 50 batches of monoclonal antibodies (derived from cell lines of immune cells), which are stored at the NIV. These are being shipped to Ernakulam and will reach the district by tomorrow,” Bhargava told BusinessLine. 

A central team with six officers has been deployed and it has reached out for epidemiological investigation protocol, contact tracing for the early detection of suspects, testing protocols for suspects, and review of isolation facilities.

“We are finding out where the person was infected, who he was in contact with before landing in a health facility, and whether any of those contacts experienced the symptoms, or if this is an isolated incidence. Also, our control room is active,” said Sujeet K Singh, Director, National Centre For Disease Control (NCDC).

A team from the NIV is also being dispatched for conducting tests on bats for the potential virus. 

The Health Ministry has spoken to the Director General of Forests to extend all co-operation in this regard.

‘No need for panic’ 

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said in a Facebook post that there is no reason to panic. 

“Our health network is ready to rise up to the challenge. Under the supervision of the Health Minister, all necessary preparations have been taken. We request everyone to follow the instructions of the Health department,” he said.

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Published on June 04, 2019
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