Nipah Virus outbreak, Centre sends expert team to Kerala
Several people are suspected to have died of the little know, mysterious `Nipah virus’ in Kozhikode district of Kerala. While the government has confirmed six deaths due to this virus, many more people are believed to have died of the disease hosted in animals.
The virus is transmitted through direct contact with infected bats, pigs, or from other NiV-infected people.
Kerala has been put on a high alert. State Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s office tweeted that a state-wide alert has been issued and that the government has opened a 24-hour control room to monitor the situation.
There is no vaccine for the virus yet, according to WHO. The main treatment for those infected is “intensive supportive care.’’ The disease has a high mortality rate with a capability to mutate.
In the meanwhile, the Centre has sent a team to Kerala. Union Health and Family Welfare Minister J.P.Nadda tweeted and said that he had asked the chief of the central disease control body to visit the affected district and take steps.
Mr Nadda has assured all support to the Kerala Government and has directed a multi-disciplinary Central team to assist the State and closely monitor the situation.
“We are closely monitoring the situation. I have spoken to Shri Alphons and Smt K Shailaja, Health Minister, Kerala and assured them all support of the Central government. I have also dispatched a Central team to assist the State government and initiate required steps,” the Union Health Minister said in a statement from Geneva.
On the directions of the Health Minister, Ms Preeti Sudan, Secretary (HFW) has also spoken to the Principal Health Secretary of Kerala and reviewed the situation.
The Central team includes Dr Sujeet K Singh, Director, National Centre for Disease Control, Dr S K Jain, Head Epidemiology, NCDC, Dr P Ravindran, Director, Emergency Medical Relief (EMR), Dr Naveen Gupta, Head Zoonosis, NCDC along with two clinicians and one expert from Ministry of Animal Husbandry.
Among the confirmed deaths, two victims were brothers and the third a woman relative who had visited them in hospital, Dr Reena, Additional Director of Communicable Disease, Kerala Government told a news channel. The first death was reported on Saturday.
Several people with symptoms of Nipah virus are being monitored in a special ward in Kozhikode Medical College and three other hospitals. Their blood samples have been sent for testing. The Nipah virus of NiV infection has symptoms like difficulty in breathing, inflammation of the brain, fever, headache, drowsiness, disorientation and delirium. A patient can slip into coma within 48 hours.
Meanwhile Mullappally Ramachandran, Lok Sabha MP and former Union Minister, in a letter to the Union Health Minister said that some villages in his constituency had been affected while seeking Central Government intervention. Doctors believe the virus spreads fast and is mostly fatal, said the parliamentarian. “The mortality rate is reportedly 70 per cent. The spread of the disease needs to be contained,” Mr Ramachandran wrote.
Nipah virus can also infect pigs and other domestic animals. The natural hosts of the virus are fruit bats of the Pteropodidae Family, Pteropus genus
NiV was first identified during an outbreak in Kampung Sungai Nipah in Malaysia in 1998. In 2004, many were infected in Bangladesh after consuming date palm sap contaminated by infected fruit bats. In India, it was first reported in 2001.