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As Kerala declares Ernakulam Nipah-free, youth recalls struggle

The Nipah virus returned to Kerala for the second consecutive year after the 21-year-old college student from Ernakulam district was tested positive for the virus in early June.

Written by Shaju Philip | Thiruvananthapuram |
Updated: July 24, 2019 7:23:51 am
nipah virus, nipah virus in kerala, nipah virus deaths kerala, nipah virus news, nipah infection, kerala health department on nipah virus, kerala news Doctors say case gave them chance to study the Nipah virus. (File)

On a day the Kerala government declared Ernakulam as a district free from Nipah virus, a youth diagnosed with the virus, who returned home on Tuesday after a 54-day treatment schedule at ASTER Medcity in Kochi, said he was “born again on June 16” — the day he was moved from the isolation ward to a hospital room.

The Nipah virus returned to Kerala for the second consecutive year after the 21-year-old college student from Ernakulam district was tested positive for the virus in early June.

At their village, his parents on Tuesday said they have finally emerged from a spell of “social boycott”. His father said: “After our son was diagnosed with the virus, we were asked to remain within the house. A neighbour arranged provisions for us. It was a period of social boycott, but we don’t have any complaints.”

The student said he remembers leaving home for for a local hospital — at Kodungallur, in Thrissur district — on May 26, but nothing much after that. “I can’t even recollect the stages I passed through,” he said.”

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He said he was not told about the virus during any stage of treatment. “I thought I was affected with an advanced stage of fever. In fact, I had fever until two weeks ago. When my parents told me about Nipah two days ago, I could not believe it,” he said.

Stating that he does not recall how he contracted the virus, the student said, “I remember eating a guava brought from the market. My parents also consumed it. If that fruit was virus-infested, then my parents would also have contracted the disease.”

Even after being moved out of the isolation ward on June 16, the youth said he faced bouts of memory loss, especially after waking up. Such bouts lasted for about half-an-hour, and it took several days to regain “normal behaviour”, he said.

Dr Bobby Varkey, consultant neurologist at ASTER Medcity, said: “We confirmed the disease within 36 hours. Some hospital staff who treated the youth had to be put under observation. The speedy diagnosis helped contain spread of the virus.”

Dr Varkey said the most significant aspect of the case was that the health sector could extensively study a Nipah case. “In the outbreak of 2018 in Kozhikode, most affected people died within days of contracting the virus. But in this case, we could thoroughly investigate a sinking case and treat the patient. Now we have a clear picture how Nipah will affect various organs in human body,” he said.

Dr Varkey said the achievement will be published in an international medical journal.

Kerala Health Minister K K Shailaja said the state could contain the virus as the government and the private health sector joined hands. “We had observed 338 persons (cases); 17 of them were admitted to isolation wards,’’ she said.

ASTER Medcity bore the youth’s cost of treatment.

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