Following the confirmation of a positive case of nipah virus detected in the state of Kerala, a group of six experts, including doctors from Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) have reached Kochi.
A central team with the experts at the core, will be established to help the Kerala government to handle the current situation. The team will look into epidemiological investigation protocol, contact tracing for early detection of suspects, testing protocols for suspects and review of isolation facilities.
On Tuesday morning, state health minister KK Shailaja announced to the media that a 23-year-old man from Ernakulam was found to be positive for nipah virus. The man was admitted to a private hospital after suffering from a high grade fever over a period of days. Doctors at the hospital suspected that the man might be suffering from nipah. Subsequently his samples were sent to virology institutes in the country. The National Institute of Virology in Pune affirmed the suspicions of the doctors and reiterated the man’s diagnosis.
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan held an urgent meeting in New Delhi and assured the state of Centre's support. He spoke to state Health Minister K.K. Shailaja, and discussed the situation, according to a Ministry statement.
A Control Room has been set up in Delhi and NCDC Strategic Health Operations Centre (SHOC) was activated with phone number 011-23978046.
A team from NIV, Pune (ICMR) with Monoclonal Antibodies is also set to reach Ernakulam. A team from NIV for testing bats for Nipah virus was also dispatched.
Nipah is a zoonotic infection, meaning it is transmitted to humans from animals. In 2018, Kerala witnessed and outbreak of the virus which was later attributed to fruit bats in the state. 17 people had lost their lives due to the disease last year.
Symptoms of nipah include fever, headache, nausea, and vomiting. Often times, a person also presents with breathing difficulties which may lead to the onset of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) while in others encephalitis (inflammation of the brain, usually due to an infection) presents. While there is no known cure, people are treated with supportive measures which work by acting on reducing the symptoms which a person presents with.
The state health minister has asked people not to panic and to take preventive measures, such as thorough washing of hands and avoiding eating half bitten fruits and palm sap or toddy which may have come in contact with the virus.
In the meantime, officials are finding it difficult to track the source of the infection as ‘patient zero’ had travelled to a few different areas prior to presenting with symptoms.