The Kerala government on Monday said a college student in Kochi is suspected to have been infected with the Nipah virus but a final confirmation is awaited from the National Institute of Virology in Pune.
The Kerala Health Department has initiated precautionary measures to deal with the possible outbreak of Nipah virus.
State Health Minister KK Shailaja said in Thiruvananthapuram that the 23-year-old college student, who has been admitted to a private hospital in Kochi, is suspected to have been infected with the Nipah virus but a final confirmation is awaited from the National Institute of Virology in Pune.
She said isolation wards have been set up at the Kalamassery Medical College Hospital in Kochi.
Although the state government is awaiting a report from the Pune Virology Institute to confirm if the student has contracted the Nipah virus, the Health Department in the state has geared up to deal with a possible outbreak, officials said here.
A meeting of officials of the Health Department and Ernakulam district authorities held in Kochi reviewed the situation. It was chaired by Principal Secretary (Health), Rajan Khobragade.
A team of medical experts, who have experience in dealing with the situation, have been rushed to Ernakulam from Kozhikode, officials said after the meeting.
A senior district health official said, “good news” is being received from doctors attending on the student at the hospital. He had taken food in the morning and is responding to medicines, the official said.
Ernakulam district Collector Mohammed Y Saffirulla said steps have been taken for capacity building at government and private hospitals to deal with the situation.
Surveillance teams have been constituted to follow the suspected cases of Nipah.
A facility to quarantine patients with suspected case of Nipah has been arranged at the Government Medical College, Kalamassery, he said.
A control room would be opened at the district headquarters apart from a media cell to provide information to the media, he added.
Assuming that the student has contracted the Nipah virus, Health authorities have directed the people with whom the student had contacted to report to the nearest medical facility if they develop influenza-like symptoms like fever, headache, myalgia (muscle pain), vomiting and sore throat.
Health authorities in Thrissur said the student who was suffering from fever had sought medical assistance at two private hospitals in Thrissur city when he had come here for a training programme recently as part of his course.
He is studying in Thodupuzha in Idukki district.
Thrissur District Medical Officer, Dr Reena, said six persons, who had been in direct contact with the student, were currently under observation.
Besides, the people who contacted the student were also under watch, the DMO said.
She said the student was in Thrissur only for four days and had been suffering from fever.
There were 16 other students with him and six of them, who came in direct contact with him, were under observation, she added.
Idukki district medical authorities said the college in Thodupuzha, where the student is studying, is also under observation.
Officials said the family and neighbours of the young man, who hails from Ernakulam district were also under observation as was the college in Thodupuzha, where the student is studying.
The Health Minister said there was no need for people to panic as the government has taken all precautionary measures and asked all private hospitals to inform them if suspected cases were reported.
On May 19, 2018, Nipah virus disease (NiV) outbreak was reported from Kozhikode in Malappuram district.
As per state government figures, the Nipah virus had claimed 17 lives — 14 in Kozhikode and three in neighbouring Malappuram in May last year.
According to the WHO, Nipah virus is a newly emerging disease that can be transmitted from its reservoir (natural wildlife host), the flying foxes (fruit bats), to both animals and humans.
It takes its name from Sungai Nipah, a village in Malaysia where it was first identified.
Human infections can range from asymptomatic infection, acute respiratory infection (mild, severe), and fatal encephalitis.
Infected people initially develop influenza-like symptoms of fever, headache, myalgia, vomiting and sore throat. This can be followed by dizziness, drowsiness, altered consciousness, and neurological signs that indicate acute encephalitis.
Some people can also experience atypical pneumonia and severe respiratory problems, including acute respiratory distress.
Encephalitis and seizures occur in severe cases, progressing to coma within 24 to 48 hours.
The WHO said, “In the outbreak in Kerala, we are seeing patients with encephalitis, myocarditis and acute respiratory infection.”