Health officials from the state of Kerala confirmed on Thursday that one person had tested positive for the new strain of Coronavirus (nCoV). The individual was studying in a university in Wuhan. The National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune, where the samples were sent, confirmed the presence of the virus.
Kerala Health Minister KK Shailaja met Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan before she met the media.
“There was a conference call between officials at the Centre and all states on Thursday morning. We had sent 20 samples, of which 10 samples turned out to be negative. One result has turned out to be positive,” she said, addressing the media.
The Health Minister said that the student who has tested positive was one among four students who had been kept in isolation at the Thrissur General Hospital. The test results of the other three people are still awaited. Six more people are in isolation wards in other hospitals in Kerala. The student is also stable and being monitored. She further added that the student would be shifted to a medical college soon.
KK Shailaja also said that Kerala had been vigilant and has already placed 806 individuals under home quarantine at home, and will take stringent measures now.
“Contact tracing is important and we have told everyone who has come back from China to be in home quarantine. We have told them not to go to public places for sometime. Even during the Nipah outbreak, the only reason we could contain it was because we did stringent contact tracing and placed people in quarantines,” she said.
The Health Minister said that people who return from China, their families and others they have been in touch with should be aware of the symptoms of the virus.
Symptoms initially appear to be the same as the common cold, with cough, runny nose, and a headache first developing. In more severe cases, the individual may also develop difficulty in breathing. Health officials have stated that those who have a travel history which may put them at risk of contracting the infection should quarantine themselves at home. In case someone develops a fever or breathing difficulties they should be admitted to an isolation ward in a hospital for further confirmation.
However, not all individuals may show symptoms of the virus, which has been making it more challenging to track its spread.
“The health department is well-equipped to deal with the situation. We request the media also to write responsibly and not create panic”, the minister said. A meeting with all concerned will be held at Medical College Thrissur on Thursday night, she said.
Three strains of Coronavirus
The recently detected Novel Coronavirus (also called nCoV 2019) belongs to the same family of viruses which were responsible for the 2002 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak. The nCoV 2019 was first detected in China’s Hubbei’s province in the city of Wuhan. As of Thursday around 170 individuals have died due to the virus in China, and thousands more are suspected to have contracted it.
"So far three strains of Coronavirus have been identified. SARS, MERS, and the Novel virus (nCoV). Out of these when we check the mortality rate, NoV's is the lowest. SARS has a mortality rate of 25 percent, while Novel is only about 10 percent. MERS is higher than novel. So there is no need to panic. Moreover, the patient is in isolation. So if one follows the guidelines of the health department, we can prevent it from spreading. We even have the history of curbing the spread of Nipah virus which had a very high mortality rate compared to all this. For most people, the infection just passes off with a fever and cough. Only when it gets to a severe level, it becomes dangerous," stated Dr Sulphi N, secretary of the Indian Medical Association’s Kerala chapter.
The source of the infection has yet to be determined, though WHO officials believe that it was transmitted from animals which were being sold at a market in Wuhan where the outbreak began. It can be transmitted between people via droplets. It has been advised that people take stringent protective and hygiene measures to keep themselves safe.
As of Thursday, 1 positive case was confirmed in India and in the Philippines. Cases have also been confirmed in Thailand, US, and Japan.