Barely 12 hours after the deaths of three members of a family near Perambra in Kozhikode district of Kerala were confirmed as a result of Nipah virus infection, eight more people died after showing similar symptoms in Kozhikode and Malappuram, sparking panic among locals in the region.
“We got the report from the National Institute of Virology, Pune, on Sunday night, confirming Nipah virus infection in the blood samples of the three persons who had died initially. Now, four more persons who were allegedly in contact with the deceased have died at the Medical College,” Kozhikode district medical officer Jayasree V confirmed.
One of the persons who died late Sunday was identified as a nurse named Lini who worked at the taluk hospital, reportedly in close contact with those who were infected. To prevent further spread of the infection, her body was cremated immediately without handing it over to her family.
“Through secretions, the virus could spread from one person to another. It is a serious situation but there’s no need to panic. All those persons who were reportedly in contact with the infected are being closely monitored. We have asked the medical personnel to use all safety gear such as gloves and masks while dealing with potentially infected persons. The collector has already ordered the area around the home of the family with the initial deaths to be cordoned off,” Jayshree said, stressing that all practices to control the spread of the infection have been put in place. Follow LIVE UPDATES here.
Neighbours reportedly told medical officials that they saw the three members of the family – brothers Swalih and Sabith and their paternal aunt Mariyam – consuming what looked like fruits picked up from a compound in which they are building a home.
While seven deaths have been reported from Kozhikode, four people who showed similar symptoms of viral encephalitis have died in Malappuram, the district’s medical officer Sakeena KJ told indianexpress.com.
“We cannot confirm at this point that the deaths of four persons here are due to Nipah virus. But they showed similar symptoms of viral fever and encephalitis, so it could be suspected. We are taking all precautions,” she said. The deaths have been reported from Thennala, Mungiyur and Chettiparambu panchayats.
Read | What is Nipah Virus?
Health Minister KK Shylaja will oversee the efforts of the health department in Kozhikode and Malappuram where the spread of the infection has alarmed the locals. The department has asked people not to believe rumours generated on social media platforms like WhatsApp.
A medical camp was conducted in Changaroth panchayat on Sunday, where the initial deaths occurred, to assist people who may be developing symptoms of viral fever. The camp is likely to continue today as well. A control room has also been set up to disseminate information about the virus.
The Nipah virus was first detected in Malaysia in 1998, according to the World Health Organisation. The name is derived from Sungai Nipah, the village in Malaysia which had first reported the outbreak and where farmers working with pigs got infected from the animals. Doctors say fruit bats are the carriers of the virus and humans consuming fruits or vegetable half-eaten by the fruit bats could lead to spread of the virus.
Doctors also say that airborne transmission of the virus is not possible, so only those who come in contact physically with the infected persons will get contaminated. The symptoms associated with viral fever are the same in case of Nipah virus: Headache, fever, vomiting and dizziness. The symptoms could persist for 1-2 weeks.