Already troubled by the second wave of Covid-19, the health system in Kerala got yet another jolt on Sunday morning when a 12-year-old boy from Kozhikode passed away after testing positive for Nipah virus infection and two others developing symptoms
It was in May 2018 that Kerala first reported Nipah infection that claimed around 17 lives at that time. Following the current outbreak, the Centre has rushed a team of National Center for Disease Control (NCDC) to provide technical aid to the state health department. According to sources in the state health department, things are likely to be under control this time, as the state authorities are familiar with the protocols to follow. Health minister Veena George said that the two people identified now were part of the 20 high-risk contacts of the deceased 12-year-old child, out of the total 188 that was on the contact list.
"There is nothing to worry about. The health department is closely following up on the situation," George said. The team of NCDC experts includes health experts and former health ministry officials Dr P Ravindran, Dr K Reghu, Additional Director, National Centre for Disease Control, and Dr. Ruchi Jain, Public Health Specialist. The Centre has also asked the Kerala authorities to take immediate steps like case search in the family, village, and areas with similar topography like Malappuram. According to a government statement, the boy showed features of encephalitis, and myocarditis was reported on September 3.
However, a cause of concern for the authorities is the fact that the two fresh cases identified are both health workers. “Both are health workers. One works with a private hospital, while the other is a staff member of Kozhikode Medical College hospital," George told the media after a meeting with top health officials. The state government has already formed separate teams for contact tracing and has also taken steps to isolate primary contacts. Police have also cordoned off around a 3-kilo meter radius of the boy’s house and have declared a health alert in the district.
The boy was first taken to a private hospital and later shifted to medical college. All three samples -- plasma, CSF, and serum-- were found infected. In June 2019 also, a case of the Nipah virus was reported in Kochi. Nipah, a zoonotic virus, is believed to be spread through the saliva of fruit bats. The disease has a high fatality rate and there is no known treatment available for this.
This comes at a time when the state is contributing to over 70 per cent of the Covid cases in India. On Sunday, India reported 42,766 new Covid-19 cases reporting around 308 deaths. Out of this, Kerala reported 29,682 cases in the last 24 hours.