A 23-year-old college student in Kerala is confirmed to have been infected with Nipah virus, state health minister K K Shylaja said citing report from the Pune-based National Institute of Virology.
"But the public need not panic," the minister told reporters on Tuesday, as the state is backed with its experience of tackling Nipah from last year and has done several arrangements to treat any wider outbreak so far.
Four others, including two nurses who were in contact with the youth, have shown signs of heavy fever and one of them has been moved into isolation ward, the health minister said.
The government has started a control room number 1077 where the public can get any information on Nipah or clear their doubts or raise concerns, she said.
A team of six experts, including doctors from AIIMS, have arrived in Kochi, she added.
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan assured all help to Kerala and said he is in touch with Kerala government on the issue. "The Centre will send monoclonal antibody (medicines) to Kerala. Everything that needs to be done in a scientific manner has been initiated. Nothing to panic," Harsh Vardhan said, according to an NDTV report.
The state government is also flying in medicine sourced from Australia. The medicine was used in preventive treatment of people who were exposed to the Hendra virus in Australia before.
After the student tested positive for the Nipah virus in initial tests from a Alappuzha-based virology center and another institute in Manipal, Kerala scrambled to set up isolation wards and monitor potential cases. It was holding out for the report from Pune on Tuesday before confirming the Nipah outbreak.
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 and ended up claiming 17 lives. There is no vaccine to prevent it.
The youth, a student from Idukki district, was hospitalized with high fever in Kochi 10 days ago, the health minister had told reporters on Monday. 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 at medical colleges in three districts where the patient’s movements have been traced — Ernakulam, Kozhikode and Thrissur.
The emergency for the state is also elevated by the timing and the location. The development comes just ahead of Eid celebrations set for Wednesday and schools to be reopened on Thursday in Kerala. If Nipah broke out in smaller rural pockets of Kozhikode and Malappuram last year, it is urban commercial centers like Ernakulam in focus this year.
Kerala's swift performance to contain Nipah, despite facing several odds, had received wide appreciation from the medical community including World Health Organisation. This time, even though odds are different, the state planned well in advance as and when the first signs of the virus outbreak emerged.
"The public need not worry since none of the 86 people traced so far have showed any signs of the virus attack, yet the government is making all preparations in view of a chance outbreak," the minister had said on Monday.
Top officials from national and state health department, and the minister herself, are camping 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 Additional Chief Secretary (health) 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. If someone is suffering from chronic cough or encephalitis, get to a hospital," she added.