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Kerala in panic as doubts of Nipah virus strike again

  • The public need not worry since there is no confirmation of Nipah virus yet, said the state health minister
  • Nipah virus had killed 17 people in the state last year

Kerala scrambled to set up isolation wards and monitor potential cases after a student tested positive for the Nipah virus that killed 17 people in the state last year.

The student, whose age has not been made public, was hospitalized with high fever in Kochi 10 days ago, health minister K.K. Shylaja told reporters after a review meeting at Kalamassery Medical College, adding the government is awaiting final results of tests from a Pune-based virology institute.

The government has opened isolation wards at medical colleges in three districts where the patient’s movements have been traced — Ernakulam, Kozhikode and Thrissur.

The public need not worry since there is no confirmation of Nipah yet, the minister said, adding however that the government is making all preparations for an outbreak.

Some 86 people who came in contact with the patient are under surveillance at their homes, Shylaja said. The government has set up isolation wards with all facilities including ventilators.

The virus which spreads from human to human and has a mortality rate of 70% appeared in the state for the first time in 2018. There is no vaccine to prevent it.

The health minister said she had previously not spoken to the media about other cases with similar symptoms which were initially suspected to be those of Nipah but later turned out to be negative, giving a sense that the state is bracing to tackle any health crisis.

The health department held an emergency meeting in Kochi. The state has also flown in experts who helped tackle last year’s outbreak in Kozhikode and Malappuram districts, including the face of that mission, former principal health secretary Rajeev Sadanandan.

“If anyone has a chance to contract it, we are keeping systems in place to immediately isolate and treat them," the minister said. “People need not be afraid. This youth has been having a fever for 10 days. During the same time, no serious cases of a similar nature were reported from anywhere else. It is a relief. But if someone is suffering from chronic cough or encephalitis, get to a hospital," she added.

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