The serum samples of a 23-year-old male student in Kerala’s Ernakulam district, that were sent for further tests to the National Institute of Virology in Pune, have come back positive for Nipah virus, confirmed Health Minister KK Shailaja on Tuesday.
Addressing a press conference in Kochi, the minister said the government received tests results earlier today which confirmed the virus infection. The minister assured that the government has taken all precautionary steps to prevent the spread of the infection.
Four people, including two nurses, who have been in contact with the index patient at the hospital have fever and are being monitored. Though their condition is not said to be serious, one of them has been shifted to the isolation ward.
“The condition of the youth is now stable and he is not on life support system. The situation is under control. As the government had addressed the Nipah outbreak in an effective manner last year, we are fully confident to meet any eventualities. People should cooperate with the general guidelines and precautionary measures issued by the health department,” Shailaja said.
The government underlined that it was according high priority to the team of doctors and nurses treating the index patient at the private hospital. Protective suits have been handed over to healthcare teams dealing with the crisis first-hand. Ambulances and rapid response teams have also been kept in the loop.
While commending the mainstream media for its role in making people aware of the dangers of Nipah, Shailaja cautioned those on social media platforms from spreading fake news. “The government will not spare anyone spreading unverifiable news on social media. Strong action will be taken,” she said.
Shailaja also advised the public to remain more vigilant in the current circumstances. People with fever and cough must avoid going to public gatherings and should get diagnosed immediately.
The 23-year-old patient, seen as the ‘index’ case of the virus, is a native of Paravur in Ernakulam district. He is a student of an institute near Thodupuzha and had attended a camp in Thrissur district. All those who were in contact with him during the period when he had fever are also being monitored by the health department.
The Nipah virus, an emerging zoonotic disease that can be transmitted from animals to humans, was first identified in 1998-99 among pig farmers in Malaysia and Singapore. Fruit bats are considered to be the natural carriers of the virus. In Kerala, the virus was reported last year in patients in Kozhikode and Malappuram district and had led to 17 deaths. The virus has a high case fatality rate hovering between 40-75%.
Having gained the experience from battling the virus infection last year, the health minister said her department is fully equipped to deal with any kind of emergency. Isolation wards and fever clinics have been opened at the Medical College in Ernakulam district. She added that they would probe how the youth got infected.
An expert team of doctors, including those who battled the virus last year in Kozhikode, are present in Kochi to monitor the situation. Ribovarin tablets, an antiviral medication used as part of supportive care, are in ample stock. Private hospitals and those on the periphery have been directed to send all suspected cases to Medical Colleges where the patients can be admitted to isolation wards.
“There’s no need to panic or be scared. Since we have the experience of last year, we can take the virus head-on. We have a set of guidelines that we are adhering to. We advise everyone who has fever-like symptoms to get diagnosed immediately,” Shailaja said.