Hours after a 23-year-old man tested positive for Nipah virus infection, Kerala’s health department announced Tuesday that 311 people, who had direct or indirect contact with the patient, were under surveillance. Most of them, belonging to different districts of the state, were at home and are being regularly monitored by health officials over phone.
The private hospital in Kochi, where the Nipah patient was admitted on May 30, said in a medical bulletin that he is ‘clinically stable, slowly improving, and his fever is subsiding’. Read in Malayalam
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“As transmission only occurs through close contact with body fluids, the patient and the environment of care is being closely monitored to prevent any further transmission. As a precaution, from the contact list, any staff showing flu-like symptoms or headache with fever are also being kept in isolation based on advice from DMO till further instructions. There is no further risk to other patients and healthcare workers,” the medical bulletin said.
Four people, including two nurses, who came in direct contact with the patient at the time of his treatment have been shifted to an isolation ward at the Medical College in Ernakulam after they complained of fever. All of them are out of danger, the health department noted.
Since the transmission of the virus primarily occurs from animals to humans, instructions have been issued to the wildlife, forest and animal husbandry departments to keep a close vigil on pig and other animal farms. Awareness camps are also planned in areas housing migrant workers in the state. On alternate days, health workers have been ordered to visit migrant colonies and report if anyone is suffering from fever or other encephalitis-symptoms.
The health department said in a statement that special awareness classes have been given to the medical staff at primary health centres in Vadakekkara panchayat, where the patient is a resident. A control room has been opened at the district collectorate in Ernakulam which will operate as the nodal agency for all Nipah-related programmes. Expert teams of doctors and health officials from Kozhikode, where the Nipah outbreak was reported last year, and from New Delhi held meetings with the district collector. The public can make phone calls on 1077 for any Nipah-related inquiries.
Both chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and health minister KK Shailaja made public requests not to ‘panic or be alarmed’ but to be vigilant and follow guidelines of the health department. They warned that strong action will be taken against those spreading misinformation on social media.
This is the second time that the virus has made its appearance in Kerala. Last year, an outbreak in Kozhikode and Malappuram districts in north Kerala had claimed 17 lives. The virus, whose natural carriers are fruit bats, has a high case fatality rate.