In a measure to make the sample analysis of suspected Coronavirus cases in Kerala quicker, Kerala will depend on the National Institute of Virology in Alappuzha instead of NIV Pune to test the samples, said Kerala Minister for Health KK Shailaja.
Despite the state having an NIV, there was no permission to test the samples and declare the results, and hence the state had been depending on NIV Pune for confirming the results. “We had sought permission to carry out the tests in Alappuzha NIV, and on Saturday we got the required permission. Samples have already been sent here, from today we will start testing at NIV Alappuzha,” the minister told media in Alappuzha.
It is not just Kerala, other states in the country too have been depending on NIV Pune to test suspected Coronavirus cases, giving it much work load and slowing down the final results. This is because extremely contagious pathogens like Coronaviurus need to be tested in facilities which are classified as Biosafety Level 4, and NIV Pune is the only such lab in the country. The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) classifies laboratories into different categories, starting from Biosafety Level (BSL) 1 to 4.
Laboratories classified as BSL 4 study extremely harmful pathogens, including Ebola, Nipah and Coronavirus. Strict hygienic measures and special conditions needed to test the microbes, will be in place in BSL 4 labs as organisms tested there are potentially fatal. Such facilities should be located in isolation in a separate building or in a restricted zone in a building.
NIV Pune is one such facility. NIV Alappuzha has now also been equipped with the facilities and conditions required to test the Coronavirus samples.
During the time when Kerala faced the Nipah virus outbreak in 2018 and in 2019, though tests were held simultaneously at NIV Pune, Manipal Institute of Virology and Alappuzha NIV, the official result could only be announced after the result came out from Pune. But at present, results which come from sample analysis from Alappuzha will be considered official.
“The advantage of testing in Alappuzha is that we will get results much faster,” said Shailaja.
The minister also said that the analysis report of the second person from Alappuzha district confirmed with Coronavirus, has been received from NIV Pune. With this, a total of two persons – both students who returned from China’s Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak – have been confirmed to have contracted the virus. One of the patients is from Thrissur and the other is from Alappuzha.
The minister also said that in the wake of a second person being confirmed with the disease, preventive measures have been made more stringent in Alappuzha.
“Isolation wards have been started in Medical College and general hospitals. If necessary, they will be opened in taluk hospitals also. A control room has also been opened at the District Collectorate,” the minister said.