The first positive case of Novel Coronavirus in India has been detected, in Thrissur, Kerala. The patient, a 20-year-old medical student who just came back from Wuhan in China, has been kept in isolation and is stable.
Kerala Health Minister K K Shylaja said they were awaiting the result of one more test, gene sequencing, only after which it could be conclusively stated that she was affected with the virus.
Three others who had returned from China are also in isolation wards in Thrissur, the minister said. “A total of 20 samples were sent for testing to the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune, of which 10 were found negative. But one has been found positive,” Shylaja told reporters, adding that the 20-year-old had reported to the hospital with sore throat and fever and was not showing any severe symptoms. All her family members are under observation.
As on Thursday evening, 1,053 people who returned from coronavirus-affected regions in China are under observation in Kerala. Of them, 1,038 are under home quarantine and 15 with suspected exposure are isolated in hospitals.
Sources said the woman who had tested positive had flown down from Beijing to Kolkota on January 22, arriving on 23rd night. Next day, she boarded a Kochi-bound IndiGo flight. “She directly went home without reporting at a hospital. There was no suspected symptom on January 25 and 26. Then, seeing news about coronavirus and reports that all those who returned from China, particularly from Wuhan region, should report at nearby government hospitals, the woman went to a primary health centre at her native place in Thrissur district,” sources said.
It was on January 27 that she developed minor symptoms. “She telephoned the PHC, and that evening, an ambulance took her to the district general hospital in Thrissur, where an isolation ward was already ready. On January 27 night itself, her samples were collected,” sources said.
“We are going to track down all her contacts, which would include the passengers who landed with her in Kolkata and those who travelled in the Kolkata-Kochi flight. All would be put under observation, even if they don’t have symptoms. Those with symptoms would have to be hospitalised,” an official said.
The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare issued a statement acknowledging the positive case. “A decision has been taken to test all those who have come in from China after January 15, keeping in mind the 14-day incubation period of the virus.” A total of 43,346 passengers, from 234 flights, have already been screened.
Dr Priya Abraham, Director, ICMR-NIV Pune, said that 49 samples of those returning from China had been tested and the Wuhan University student’s sample was the only one that tested positive. “Now a next-gen sequencing test will be done and the final result declared tomorrow evening. Per day a total of 9-10 samples are received at the NIV. It takes a day to test a sample,” Dr Abraham said.
In a fresh advisory, the Ministry of Health asked people who have just returned from China to “Sleep in a separate room, avoid contact with family members and visitors. Cover nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing. Avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu like symptoms.”
Asserting that the state health network was capable of handling any emergency, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan tweeted, “We have initiated a series of measures… contact tracing, case isolation, quality care and community engagement are being done diligently.” He told reporters, The state has earlier faced similar situations and we are well-equipped to face the issue.”
Kerala will be screening all international and domestic passengers at all four airports in Kerala now.
The Centre has asked Indians to refrain from travelling to China even as efforts are underway to evacuate Indian nationals from the nCoV-hit Wuhan province starting tentatively Friday evening. Officials have said only asymptomatic people will be moved out, provided they agree to tests and a period of isolation. Health Ministry officials say they could increase the isolation period to double the usual 14 days, which is the incubation period of the virus.
On Thursday, the Cabinet Secretary again reviewed the readiness against the virus with the Ministries of Health & Family Welfare, External Affairs, Defence, Home Affairs, Civil Aviation, Information & Broadcasting, Labour & Employment, and Shipping.
Officials said gram panchayats would be organised to make people aware of the symptoms, precautions and measures taken by the state governments regarding prevention and management of the coronavirus in villages bordering Nepal.
As on January 30, 7,711 confirmed cases have been reported by 31 Chinese provinces, including 1,370 serious cases, 170 deaths, 124 discharged and cured cases and 12,167 suspected cases. Most of the deaths have been reported among the elderly with co-morbid conditions.
The number of reported confirmed cases outside China are Thailand (14), Singapore (10), Australia (5), the US (5), Japan (8), South Korea (4), Malaysia (7), France (4), Vietnam (2) Canada (2), Nepal (1), Cambodia (1), Sri Lanka (1) Germany (4), the UAE (4), Hong Kong (10), Macao (7), Taiwan (8), Finland (1), Angola (1) and India (1) — a total of 21 countries.
(with inputs from Pune)
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines