After it was confirmed that one individual from Kerala’s Ernakulam has tested positive for the Nipah virus, states which share a border with Kerala are on alert for any possible signs of the infection.
In a circular issued by the Integrated Disease Surveillance Program on Tuesday, it was stated that an inter-departmental meeting would soon be held at the district level. Eight districts in Karnataka have come under the lens in particular as they border Kerala. These districts are Chamrajnagar, Mysuru, Kodagu, Dakshina Kannada, Uttara Kannada, Udupi, Shivamogga, and Chikamagaluru. Health officials in the district must file a ‘daily outbreak report,’ which can be accessed here at the department’s webpage.
The circular has also ordered veterinary departments to be a part of the meetings.
Besides these districts in Karnataka, officials from the state of Tamil Nadu have also issued alerts in 7 districts in the state neighbouring Kerala. The districts under watch are Kanyakumari, Nilgiris, Coimbatore, Ooty, Dindigul, Tirunelveli, and Theni. Speaking to TNM, a Health Department official from Tamil Nadu stated that while there have not been any instances within the state which have warranted such measures, these steps are being taken as a precautionary measure.
“A high alert has been issued and we will be sending a senior health official to supervise and monitor the situation. We are making huge efforts to educate people and make them more aware about the spread of the virus. Everyone is being told about the spread of the virus from bats and are being told to properly wash all fruits and vegetables, as well as to maintain good hygiene. A number of doctors and medical experts have been briefed about the virus and they know what steps to take, should someone present with any suspicion of Nipah,” said Tamil Nadu Health Secretary Dr Beela Rajesh to TNM.
A 23-year-old man from Ernakulam was confirmed to have tested positive for Nipah on Tuesday. State Health Minister KK Shailaja had asked for everyone to remain calm as all safety protocols and measures were in place. As of Wednesday, five people who had made contact with the man have been placed under observation, with officials suspecting them to have also contracted the infection.
Nipah is a virus which is spread to humans from animals. May 2018 saw an outbreak in Kerala which led to the death of 17 people. There is no cure or vaccine for it, and treatment is largely based on giving the person symptomatic support and care. While medications like ribavirin, an antiviral drug, are being given to some, the effects of the drug against Nipah are not fully understood.
Those presenting with high grade fever, nausea, vomiting, throat pain, and headache for a long period of time have been asked to visit a doctor for further evaluation. A total of 311 people have been quarantined after officials in the state used a method known as ‘contact tracing’, to determine those who may have been exposed to the man confirmed to have the virus.