With the northern part of Kerala gripped by fear over the rare Nipah virus, the health department has issued a high alert throughout the state.
Health Minister KK Shylaja said that six deaths due to the virus had been confirmed and that the government was setting up more facilities at the Kozhikode Medical College, as that was the district with maximum fatalities so far.
The minister had an evaluation meeting with the Director of Health Services, Dr RL Saritha, and experts from the Kasturba Medical College, Manipal.
Authorities have found that there had been bats in the well located in the house of the family at Changaroth panchayat in Kozhikode district which lost three members to the Nipah virus. The well which had been the source of water for the family has now been sealed, the minister informed.
Siblings Mohammed Sadik (26) and Mohammed Salih (28), sons of Valachuketti Moosa, died on May 5 and May 18 respectively. Moosaâ€™s brother Moideenâ€™s wife Mariam (50) passed away on May 19. Moosa (62) is in a critical condition while Atifa (19), Salihâ€™s fiancĂ©e, is undergoing treatment at a private hospital.
Direct contact with infected pigs, other infected animals, or through contaminated fruits (half-eaten fruits left by fruit bats), and even direct contact with sick persons have been cited as the underlying cause of outbreaks.
Death of nursing staff
A nurse who used to work at the Taluk Hospital in Perambra was cremated on Monday morning, hours after she died at 2 am. The dead body of the nurse, identified as Lini, was not handed over to her family; instead hospital authorities cremated her body at an electronic crematorium. This was done as a precautionary measure to ensure that the virus did not spread further. Lini, a native of Chembanoda, had nursed a patient who died of Nipah fever.
Regarding questions on why the body was hurriedly cremated, the minister said that this had been done after consulting the family.
â€śThere are certain symptoms for the Nipah virus infection. But since the symptoms are the same for some other diseases also, a confirmation can be done only after examining at the lab. We have a virology lab in Wayanad and one attached to the Medical College in Thiruvananthapuram. But level four examination is needed to examine the blood samples in this case. The government has already initiated steps to set up a lab in the state,â€ť she said.
Liniâ€™s blood samples have been sent for testing.
More wards and a lab
Two isolation wards have been opened at the Kozhikode Medical College, and more ventilators and other facilities will be made available, the minister said. The minister added there was no need to be panic as the government was taking all the necessary measures possible.
â€śCurrently the blood samples of the people who are suspected to be infected with the virus and those who died are being sent to the Kasturba Medical College for examination. We are also awaiting confirmation from the National Virology Institute,â€ť the Minister said, adding that the state was keeping the Centre informed.
The government has opened medical camps at Perambra and Kuttiyadi. Masks and gloves will be provided to the public at these camps.
As many as 20 people suspected to be infected with Nipah have been admitted to the Kozhikode Medical College, out of which the condition of 10 is said to be critical.
Meanwhile, a team of medical experts from the Centre have reached Kozhikode.