The outbreak of Nipah virus in the southern state of Kerala has put the Kerala health department on high alert. At least nine people have died in Kerala's Calicut district due to high fever with two out of the nine deceased were affected with the rare Nipah virus. Kerala Health Secretary Rajiv Sadanandan told IANS that they have now got the confirmation from the National Institute of Virology, Pune. The health department has, however, not confirmed the cause of the death of the other seven patients and sent their samples for tests.
"The samples of the other deceased have been sent for tests to virology institute Manipal. A task force has been formed under District Collector U V Jose for further probe on it," an official from the health department said.
What is Nipah virus?
Nipah virus (NiV) infection is a newly emerging zoonosis that causes severe disease in both animals and humans. The natural host of the virus are fruit bats of the Pteropodidae Family, Pteropus genus. NiV infection in humans has a range of clinical presentations, from asymptomatic infection to acute respiratory syndrome and fatal encephalitis. NiV is also capable of causing disease in pigs and other domestic animals. There is no vaccine for either humans or animals. The primary treatment for human cases is intensive supportive care.
Nipah virus symptoms
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, infection with Nipah virus is associated with encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). After exposure and an incubation period of 5 to 14 days,illness presents with 3-14 days of fever and headache, followed by drowsiness, disorientation and mental confusion. These signs and symptoms can progress to coma within 24-48 hours. Some patients have a respiratory illness during the early part of their infections, and half of the patients showing severe neurological signs showed also pulmonary signs.
Course of action: Meanwhile, the health department conducted emergency meetings in Kozhikode under Minister of Health and Family Welfare JP Nadda along with Secretary Health over the deaths.
Union Minister J P Nadda had yesterday directed the Director of National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to visit Kerala's Kozhikode district to assist the state government in the wake of the death of three people due to Nipah virus.
"Reviewed the situation of deaths related to Nipah virus in Kerala with Secretary Health. I have directed Director NCDC to visit the district and initiate required steps as warranted by the protocol for the disease in consultation with state government," Nadda had said in a tweet.
State Health Minister K K Shylaja had yesterday said the nature of the virus was yet to be ascertained. "The kind of virus that caused the disease has not been ascertained. Blood and other samples of the deceased have been sent to the National Virology Institute, Pune. The results will be made available in a few days," Shylaja told reporters here after chairing a meet of top health department officials.
A district-level special task force, headed by Kozhikode District collector, U V Jose has been formed in the wake of the deaths due to this virus, official sources said.
Nadda yesterday instructed the Director of National Centre for Disease Control to visit the district and initiate required steps as warranted by the protocol in consultation with the state government.
The Director of Health service, Dr R L Sarita, took the decision to form the task force after the meeting. A single window system has been put in place to monitor emergency treatment to meet any eventuality, they said.
The outbreak: While a 50-year-old woman died at a private hospital in Changarothu in the district on May 19, her male relatives, aged 25 and 23, died on May 18 and 5.
Sarita told media persons that the deaths occurred due to a rare virus and that the health department has taken all preventive measures.
"We need to ascertain which type of virus caused the deaths. Many viruses are zoonotic types and some can be transmitted through bats," she said.
She said the health department has issued directions to all District Medical Officers to maintain vigil and forward information in case people with similar symptoms approach them for treatment.
"We have started special medical camps at Changarothu to avoid further spread of the disease," she added.
Earlier, Lok Sabha MP and former union minister Mullappally Ramachandran sought the central government's intervention to contain the outbreak of what he termed was a 'rare and deadly' virus in some parts of Kozhikode district.
In a letter to Nadda, a copy of which was made available to the press in Kochi, he said some panchayats, including Kuttiyadi and Perambra, in his Lok Sabha constituency of Vatakara were in the grip of the "deadly virus."
He said some doctors had termed it as 'Nipah virus,' while others said it was zoonotic and it spread fast and was fatal.
"The mortality rate is reportedly 70 per cent. The spread of the disease needs to be contained," he said.
'A central team of the Indian Council of Medical Research is arriving at Kozhikode on Monday. There is no reason for any panic at all, as this can be managed and we have already started our work towards that. There was a similar issue in Bangladesh and it has been managed well. We have already informed the Centre about this,' he said.