A TEAM of doctors and experts sent by the Union Health Ministry to Kerala is examining whether the Nipah case confirmed in the state this month was caused by an infected guava that the patient had consumed.
“The patient informed us that he ate guava two weeks before he was admitted to hospital (on June 3). Fruit bats are the carriers of the Nipah virus and their saliva transmits the infection. We have informed authorities about the development and requested them to initiate surveillance,” Dr Ashutosh Biswas, Department of Internal Medicine, AIIMS-Delhi, told The Indian Express.
Studies conducted after the previous Nipah outbreak in the state, which claimed 17 lives last year, had concluded that the virus was first transmitted from fruit bats.
Biswas is part of the central team, which includes other members from AIIMS, the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune. The team reached Ernakulam on Tuesday and spoke to the patient, whose condition has been described as “stable”, at the Government Medical College Hospital in Kalamassery.
“We have submitted the details to the District Collector’s office. The team will monitor the patients on a regular basis,” said Dr Naveen Verma, NCDC assistant director, who is also a member of the team.
On June 4, the Kerala government declared a state of high alert, particularly in the districts of Ernakulam, Thrissur and Idukki, after it received confirmation of the virus from NIV in fluid samples of patient.
Since then, samples of seven other suspected cases have tested negative.
The Nipah patient is a 23-year-old from Vadakkekara panchayat in Ernakulam. He had moved to Thrissur last month for a job training programme after completing a technical course in Idukki’s Thodupuzha, where he was staying in a rented house with four classmates.
The state government has initiated several measures since the positive test, including placing over 300 people under “house quarantine”. The state animal husbandry and forest departments are also involved in efforts to identify the source of the latest case of the zoonotic virus, which spreads primarily between animals and humans.
The central team is the second group of experts sent by the Union Ministry to assist the state government in controlling and containing the virus.