Over 100 people to be quarantined for Nipah, Kerala under threat

NEW DELHI | Updated: 13 September, 2023 11:40 am IST
Of the four people infected, two of them have already confirmed to have died

KOZHIKODE/NEW DELHI: Kerala government health officials have asked 125 people to stay indoors who may have come into contact with the four people who had been confirmed to have had contracted the virus in Kozhikode district. Health officials also suspect that another two people may have also come into contact with the infected four. 

Dr Rajeev Jayadevan, a member of the Public Health Advisory Panel of the Kerala state Indian Medical Association, said, “People who have come into direct or indirect contact with Nipah-infected patients have been asked to quarantine or isolate themselves, after being categorised into risk levels. The list of people identified is expected to grow in the initial few days.”

The Central government is scheduled to send a team of medical health personnel to the affected district of Kozhikode to ascertain the spread of the virus. More significantly, the Central team has also been tasked with discerning the origin of the virus and if it has spread through some other organism, rather than the traditional spread of the disease through bats. 

According to Dr Rajeev, the survey will be done according to the protocols established from previous Nipah outbreaks in Kerala, West Bengal, Bangladesh and elsewhere. Attention will be paid to factors like identifying the exact mode of spillover of the virus from bat to man, analysis of the environment, surveying the community, detecting other cases early to arrest the outbreak with minimum damage, and assessing the adequacy of healthcare systems to deal with future outbreaks.

Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare Mansukh Mandaviya had confirmed the spread of the Nipah virus on Tuesday, after getting access to the tested samples from the National Institute of Virology, Pune. He also issued directives to prevent the spread of the virus.

Kerala government has issued a red alert warning regarding the virus, as they are seeking to ensure that the virus does not spread to other adjoining districts. The district of Kozhikode in itself comprises over 33 lakh people and the virus’ virulence may spread towards other districts. 

However, the risk of it spreading to other districts is low. “Nipah typically does not spread to other districts. However, early contact tracing will help track down people who might have travelled to other districts after coming into contact with the infected,” says Dr Rajeev Jayadevan, who is also the Co-Chairman, National IMA COVID Task Force.

Health minister Veena George had said, “The medicine for treating Nipah patients will arrive in Kozhikode by evening. Teams from National Institute of Virology, Pune would arrive in Kerala during the day to set up a mobile lab at Kozhikode Medical College to test for Nipah and carry out surveys of bats. Though the means to confirm Nipah is available in Kozhikode and Thonnakkal, the official confirmation must come from NIV, Pune”.

Responding to a query regarding the Nipah infection in the assembly, Veena George said that the virus strain seen in Kerala was the Bangladesh variant that spreads from human to human and has a high mortality rate, though it is less infectious.

ALSO READ: Mandaviya confirms Nipah virus, Kerala on high alert

The Nipah virus, although not as virulent as the COVID-19 virus, is much deadlier. According to the World Health Organisation, the virus has an overall global fatality rate of around 40 to 70 per cent. 

“Unlike COVID which easily spreads through the air, Nipah requires close contact. Hence, mostly family members and care givers are affected,” Jayadevan said.

In the 2018 outbreak of the virus in Kerala, Lini Puthussery, a nurse who was bringing to health one of the first victims, lost her life in the process, making the 28-year-old a martyr and a hero in the medical world.

The state of Kerala had previously been witness to a massive Nipah outbreak in 2018 where of the 18 patients who had been admitted, all of them died except one. 

The first Nipah outbreak in India was seen in Siliguri town of West Bengal in 2001, where 45 of the 66 of the infected people died. Most outbreaks of the virus have been heavily localised, however, the threat looms of it spreading to other districts. 

According to WHO, the virus mostly spreads through infected animals and contaminated food, or sometimes through contact with infected persons. Moreover, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms include fever, headache, cough, sore throat, difficulty in breathing, and vomiting. As of now, the most common origin of the virus has been traced to fruit bats. 

SYMPTOMS OF NIPAH

1) FEVER, HEADACHE, VOMITING, FAINTING

2) SOME MAY SHOW SYMPTOMS OF EPILEPSY

3) SYMPTOMS WILL LAST FOR 10 TO 11 DAYS

4) THEN, THE INFECTED MAY FALL UNCONSCIOUS

5) DEATH MAY HAPPEN AS BRAIN FEVER DEVELOPS IN THE FINAL STAGE

 HOW DOES IT SPREAD?

1) FROM FRUIT BATS TO ANIMALS THROUGH BITES

2) FROM ANIMALS TO OTHER ANIMALS THROUGH FLUIDS

3) FROM BATS TO HUMANS ( IF ONE CONSUMES FRUITS BITTEN BY BATS)

4) FROM ANIMALS TO HUMANS THROUGH BODY FLUIDS

5) FROM HUMANS TO HUMANS THROUGH BODY FLUIDS

HOW TO PREVENT?

1) DO NOT EAT FRUITS BITTEN BY BIRDS AND ANIMALS

2) WASH FRUITS AND VEGETABLES THOROUGHLY

3) DON’T VISIT THE PLACES WHERE THE OUTBREAK HAS ALREADY TAKEN PLACE

4) WASH HANDS PROPERLY WITH SOAP AND WATER TO PREVENT THE SPREAD OF GERMS

5) DO NOT DRINK TODDY COLLECTED FROM AREAS WHERE BATS ARE FOUND IN LARGE NUMBERS

6) BEWARE OF MISINFORMATION, FOLLOW ONLY INSTRUCTIONS FROM TRUSTED SOURCES

The Kerala government has sent five samples to the National Institute of Virology in Pune and a team from the institute is to arrive in the state and conduct tests in Kerala during the day to set up a mobile lab at Kozhikode Medical College to test for Nipah and carry out survey of bats

Kerala general education minister V Sivankutty has directed all schools in the containment zones to be closed until further orders. All schools, anganwadis and banks are set to remain shut in the district.

Entry and exit will be restricted to these containment zones in 43 wards in 7 panchayats in the district.

STEPS TAKEN IN THE CONTAINMENT ZONES

Only medical shops and food and essential shops are allowed to function from 7 am to 5 pm. However, medical shops and health centres will not have any restrictions.

All government offices and village offices are set to function with only minimum staff.

Transportation through public zones in containment zones will not be allowed. vehicles traveling through national and state highways will not be permitted to stop in the containment zones.

Social distancing, masks and sanitiser usage in containment zones are advised.

The central team is scheduled to reach Kozhikode by today evening. 

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