Thiruvananthapuram: Amidst much speculation of a suspected Nipah virus outbreak in Kerala, the state’s Health Minister KK Shailaja has now confirmed that one person from Ernakulam in Kochi has been tested positive for the deadly virus. Addressing media personnel on Tuesday, the minister said that the suspected victim’s reports were sent to the Pune Virology Institute which confirmed that he had been affected by the virus which claimed as many as 17 lives in the state in May of 2018.
Earlier today, KK Shailaja had claimed that the state health machinery was keeping a close eye on 86 people suspected to have fallen victim to the virus. She added that the government is equipped to handle the situation and a special isolation ward has also been set up at the Ernakulam Medical College in Kochi for this purpose. More details in this regard are awaited as this continues to be a developing situation. However, authorities have confirmed that those who came into contact with the patient are being kept under strict observation.
As per the latest reports, the man tested positive for the virus has been identified as a 21-year-old college student who has been admitted to a private hospital in Kochi. Earlier this week, a meeting of top officials with the Health Department and Ernakulam district authorities was held to review the situation and map a plan of action. The meeting was chaired by Principal Secretary (Health), Rajan Khobragade. District collector of Ernakulam, Mohammed Y Saffirulla on Monday told media personnel that steps are being taken to ready government and private hospitals to deal with the situation.
In May of 2018, a Nipah virus disease (NiV) was reported from Kozhikode in Malappuram district of Kerala. Government figures put the death toll caused during the outbreak at 14 from Kozhikode and three from neighbouring Malappuram. Several measures were implemented across the state to prevent the spread of the virus and ensure non-contamination of affected persons for over a period of three months.
Nipah can be transmitted through a host of reservoirs, including bats, to both animals and humans. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed that the first detected case of the infection was reported from Sungai Nipah, a village in Malaysia. Those affected by the virus can witness asymptomatic infection, acute respiratory infection (mild, severe), and fatal encephalitis. Initial symptoms of the virus resemble those of Influenza. However, encephalitis and seizures occur in severe cases leading to the patient progressing to coma within 24 to 48 hours. Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan has also told media outlets that he is in touch with the Kerala Health Minister and efforts are being made to extend all help to the state machinery in proceeding with a scientific solution. The Union Minister also urged citizens of Kerala to remain calm and not add to a situation of panic.