Kerala health department on alert after 3 deaths due to virus

Kozhikode: After three confirmed deaths due to the Nipah virus (NiV), and reports on eight other patients awaited, Kerala Health Minister K.K. Shailaja on Monday said things are under control and there is no need to panic.

“All the periphery hospitals of the Kozhikode Medical College hospital are fully equipped to tackle the fever. All those who have fever need not rush to the medical college itself.

“At the moment, eight patients are currently in treatment. Their samples have been sent to Pune and results are awaited,” said Shailaja.

Nipah virus (NiV), spread by fruit bats that infects both animals and humans, has claimed the lives of two brothers and their aunt in Perambara within a few weeks, and now eight more people are under close observation.

Transmission of NiV takes place through direct contact with infected bats, pigs or from other NiV-infected people.

“The health officials visited the house of Sabith and his brother, who passed away due to Nipah virus, and found there was a well in their house that was unused but had lots of bats.

“The authorities have sealed the top of the well to ensure that the remaining bats do not come out,” said Shailaja.

She also added that people were being educated to ensure that they do not eat any fruits that fall down from trees.

“Awareness programmes have already begun and more and more medical teams from the Centre, the Indian Medical Association and private hospitals are being readied.

“The first Central team has already arrived and another one is arriving tomorrow (Tuesday),” said Shailaja and added that all patients coming down with fever must not panic.

The state government has sanctioned an emergency fund of Rs2 million to the Kozhikode Medical College to tackle the present fever outbreak.

Union Minister J P Nadda had on Sunday directed the Director of National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to visit Kozhikode district to assist the state government in the wake of death of three people due to Nipah virus.

“Reviewed the situation of deaths related to Nipah virus in Kerala with Secreatry Health. I have directed Director NCDC to visit the district and initiate required steps as warranted by the protocol for the disease in consultation with state government,” Nadda had said in a tweet.

Nipah virus (NiV) infection in humans has a range of clinical presentations, from asymptomatic infection to acute respiratory syndrome and fatal encephalitis, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

A district-level special task force, headed by Kozhikode District collector, U V Jose has been formed in the wake of the deaths due to this virus, official sources said.

The Director of Health service, Dr R L Sarita, took the decision to form the task force after the meeting.

A single window system has been put in place to monitor emergency treatment to meet any eventuality, they said.

While a 50-year-old woman died at a private hospital in Changarothu in the district on May 19, her male relatives, aged 25 and 23, died on May 18 and 5. Sarita told mediapersons that the deaths occurred due to a rare virus and that the health department has taken all preventive measures.

“We need to ascertain which type of virus caused the deaths. Many viruses are zoonotic types and some can be transmitted through bats,” she said.

She said the health department has issued directions to all District Medical Officers to maintain vigil and forward information in case people with similar symptoms approach them for treatment.

“We have started special medical camps at Changarothu to avoid further spread of the disease,” she added. Earlier, Lok Sabha MP and former union minister Mullappally Ramachandran sought the central government’s intervention to contain the outbreak of what he termed was a ‘rare and deadly’ virus in some parts of Kozhikode district.

In a letter to Nadda, a copy of which was made available to the press in Kochi, he said some panchayats, including Kuttiyadi and Perambra, in his Lok Sabha constituency of Vatakara were in the grip of the “deadly virus.”

He said some doctors had termed it as ‘Nipah virus,’ while others said it was zoonotic and it spread fast and was fatal. “The mortality rate is reportedly 70 per cent. The spread of the disease needs to be contained,” he said.

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