A year after Kerala contained an outbreak of Nipah in the northern district of Kozhikode, the government sounded the alarm across the state after a fresh case of the virus was confirmed in central Ernakulam Tuesday.
The state of high alert, particularly in the districts of Ernakulam, Thrissur and Idukki, was declared after the state government received confirmation of the virus in fluid samples of a suspected case sent to the National Institute of Virology in Pune.
The patient is a 23-year-old man from Vadakkekara panchayat in Ernakulam district, who 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. A medical bulletin described his condition as “clinically stable”.
Officials said 311 people, who had been in touch with the man after he fell ill, have been placed under “home quarantine”.
Four of them — three nurses of a private hospital in Kochi, where the patient is undergoing treatment, and a classmate — have been shifted to the isolation ward at the government medical college hospital in Kalamassery, Ernakulam after they developed fever and complained of uneasiness.
Another person from the Vadakkekara region, who was not on the quarantine list, was also admitted to the isolation ward with suspected symptoms. Officials described the condition of the five as “stable” and said that their fluid samples will be send to virology labs in Pune and Manipal.
Last year, studies had confirmed that the first identified case had contacted the virus from fruit bats — that outbreak had claimed 17 lives. Officials said the state’s animal husbandry and forest departments have started efforts to identify the source of the latest case of the zoonotic virus, which spreads primarily between animals and humans.
Confirming the Nipah case, Kerala Health Minister K K Shailaja said there was no reason for panic as the state government was “equipped to meet any eventuality”. “Steps have been taken to identify the source of the virus. There is enough stock of necessary medicine for treatment. Isolation wards have been made ready in Kollam, Kochi, Thrissur and Kozhikode medical colleges. Protective gear and masks have been supplied to health workers, who have been given training in handling the situation,’’ she said.
“Even before the virus was confirmed, the Health Department initiated steps to control the situation. The Union Health Ministry has rushed a six-member team to help the state. The government has also drafted doctors and health workers who were part of the team that was involved in Nipah management in Kozhikode last year,’’ she said.
Kerala Health Secretary Dr Rajan N Khobragade said that as part of “intense surveillance”, all Encephalitis cases, including deaths, in the last three weeks would be examined. Besides, unusual deaths reported in recent weeks would also be reviewed, he said.
Officials said staff at primary health centres and civic bodies are in touch with those placed under home quarantine. Their health will be monitored over the next 21 days from district-level control rooms, they said. Labour Department officials have also started visiting camps of migrant workers in Ernakulam to monitor those with fever.