What is the status of Nipah virus outbreak in Kerala?
A 12-year-old boy died of the Nipah virus at a hospital in Kerala on Sunday, triggering alarm among the authorities and the public. Now, 251 people on the victim's contact list have been isolated and a habitat of fruit bats has been found in his locality. The central government rushed a team to Kerala for technical support and issued recommendations for handling the outbreak.
The state government has sounded an alert in Kozhikode and the neighboring districts of Malappuram and Kannur. Of the 251 people in quarantine, 11 have developed symptoms of the infection, said the state's Health Minister Veena George. All of them are said to be stable. Meanwhile, the test results for the eight of the contacts have returned negative, and further testing is currently underway.
Further, a team of the state animal husbandry department collected samples of fruit bats from Chathamangalam, the deceased boy's village. "The family of the victim had stated about the frequent presence of fruit bats at their property, where there are rambutan trees," George said. Samples of half-eaten rambutan fruits, which could possibly be contaminated, were also taken by the team.
The central team which visited Kerala conducted field investigations with local officials and interacted with the relatives of the victim, reports said. The Union Health Ministry has advised the state government to carry out an active search for more cases. It also underlined the need for establishing a 24x7 control room and conducting daily interactions with the media, while promising all possible technical support.
The authorities have sealed off the area surrounding the victim's home. A door-to-door survey will be carried out to ensure that no contact is left out. George said that facilities for point-of-care and RT-PCR testing would be arranged at the Kozhikode Government Medical College. However, coronavirus vaccination would be suspended in Kozhikode for the next 48 hours.
This is the second Nipah virus outbreak in Kerala in the past three years. The southern state had earlier witnessed infections in 2018, leading to 17 deaths. Worryingly, Kerala is already reeling under a high rate of daily coronavirus infections and deaths. The state reports just under 70% of India's nearly 40,000 new cases every day.
Nipah virus is a zoonotic virus, meaning it is transmitted from animals to humans. It can also spread through contaminated foods or direct human-to-human interaction. Fruit bats are considered a natural host of this virus. Common symptoms of the disease include fever, headache, cough, sore throat, breathing problems, and vomiting. There is no specific treatment or vaccine available as yet.