With three more suspected Nipah virus-related deaths reported over the last 24 hours in Kerala’s Kozhikode district, where three deaths have already been confirmed, the entire state has been put on high alert, even as the Centre launched a multi-agency effort to contain the outbreak.
A rapid response team from the National Centre for Disease Control, New Delhi, National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, and Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme, Kerala, have initiated a joint investigation into the outbreak.
“We are closely monitoring the situation. I have spoken to Tourism Minister K J Alphons and Kerala Health Minister K K Shailaja and assured them all support of the Central government,” Union Health Minister J P Nadda said in a statement from Geneva Monday. “I have also dispatched a central team to assist the state government and initiate required steps.”
More than a hundred samples collected from patients with suspected symptoms have been sent to NIV for confirmation.
Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday said although Nipah-related deaths have been reported only in Kozhikode, the entire state has been put on alert, and private hospitals have been asked to not deny treatment to any patient with suspected symptoms.
Kerala Health Services director Dr R L Saritha said, “So far three cases have been virologically confirmed as caused by Nipah. Three more deaths have occurred since Sunday night with similar epidemiological symptoms. We are awaiting confirmation on these.”
Dr Saritha said it is suspected that Nipah virus was induced by fruit bats. “Bats have been found near the house of V Moosa, 61, whose two sons, and a close relative, died due to the disease. Moosa is also battling for life after has been confirmed with Nipah virus,” she said.
A team from the National Centre for Disease Control, led by its director Dr Sujith Kumar Singh, on Monday visited the medical college in Kozhikode and affected areas to help the state tackle Nipah-induced fever.
A statement from Kerala’s Health Minister K K Shylaja said a task force has been constituted and a special intensive care unit and isolation ward have been arranged at Kozhikode medical college to address suspected Nipah cases.
Late Saturday evening, it was learnt that Atifa, 19, admitted at Kochi’s Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences who was suspected to have been infected, has tested negative for Nipah virus. Dr Sanjeev Singh, medical director at the institute, said that Atifa comes from Perambra taluk of Kohhikode, where presence of Nipah virus has been confirmed, and was admitted as a precautionary measure when she also developed symptoms of fever after her fiance succumbed to the virus.
A senior scientist at NIV said, “Confirming a human infection with Nipah virus is a matter of concern but there is no need for panic because timely diagnosis and rapid mobilisation of Central and state health assets on ground should mitigate the spread. We are fully prepared for laboratory testing at par with international standards.”