A day after seven districts in the state of Tamil Nadu were placed on high alert in view of the confirmation of Nipah virus in the bordering state of Kerala, officials have amped up screening measures. As of Thursday, people travelling from Kerala to Tamil Nadu via public or private transportation are being stopped at check posts at the border where health officials are conducting screening of the infection.
“This is just a safety protocol in view of the confirmed case of Nipah in Kerala. Only in the bordering districts are we carrying out screening to reduce the risk of spread of the virus, there is no need to panic,” explained Tamil Nadu Health Secretary Dr Beela Rajesh to TNM.
Buses were stopped at bordering district checkpoints as a team of medical officials examined each individual carefully. If anyone is suspected to have symptoms of the virus, they will be required to get more detailed investigations done and will not be permitted to enter the state until it they are cleared by health authorities.
On Wednesday, the state government had placed the districts of Kanyakumari, Nilgiris, Coimbatore, Ooty, Dindigul, Tirunelveli, and Theni under high alert. This came after the confirmation that a 23-year-old man from Ernakulam in Kerala had tested positive for Nipah virus.
Speaking to the media, Dean of Coimbatore Government Hospital Dr Ashokan stated that a Nipah ward had been set up in the hospital as a precaution, should any cases present. The ward set up at the hospital has 30 beds and all necessary facilities have been made available should there be any cases of Nipah reported.
Special ward set-up at Coimbatore Government Hospital
Health Department officials from Kerala immediately went into action and began using a method called ‘contact tracing’ to identify individuals who may have indirect or direct contact with the man, to isolate them and observe them to determine if the virus had spread. As of Thursday morning, 311 individuals had been placed under quarantine and another 7 have been admitted to hospitals after showing symptoms which doctors suspect could be due to Nipah. Kerala Health Minister KK Shailaja on Thursday announced that six persons, who were under observation, have tested negative for Nipah with their results being confirmed by the National Institute of Virology, Pune.
Nipah virus was relatively unheard of until May 2018, when an outbreak in Kerala led to the death of 17 individuals. While there is no known cure or vaccine for the virus, people are being treated based on the symptoms they are presenting with.