Home / Science / Health /  Centre sends medical team to Malappuram to assess West Nile Virus situation

NEW DELHI : Centre on Thursday sent a special medical team to Malappuram district of Kerala from where a confirmed case of West Nile Virus (WNV) fever, a mosquito-borne disease was reported this week.

The government has also alerted the apex research organization Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for keeping a close watch at central and state level.

“We have dispatched a multi-disciplinary central team from National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). We are closely monitoring the situation and have spoken to the state health minister of Kerala in this regard. All support will be extended to Kerala in disease’s prevention and management," union minister of health and family welfare J.P. Nadda said.

The central team includes Ruchi Jain from Trivandrum, Suneet Kaur, assitant director, NCDC, E. Rajendran, entomologist, NCDC, Calicut and Binoy Basu, EIS officer, NCDC. The team will support the State health authorities in managing the disease.

“WNV, a viral infection currently is very uncommon in India. Birds are the natural hosts of this virus. But it spreads to human by Culex mosquitoes. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds. Once a person gets infected, the virus multiplies thereby causing illness," said Pranjit Bhowmik, director, Internal Medicine, Asian Institute of Medical Sciences, Faridabad.

“Infection usually presents as a mild, non-fatal dengue like illness in humans. The symptoms include fever, headache, tiredness, body aches, nausea, vomiting, occasionally with skin rash and swollen lymph glands. A blood test report can only confirm if a person has been infected with it or not," he said.

According to the National Health Portal of India, a health information database of union health ministry, serologically confirmed cases of WNV infections were reported from Vellore and Kolar districts during 1977, 1978 and 1981. During an outbreak of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) in Kerala, in May 2011, presence of WNV was confirmed in clinical specimens.

The union health ministry has said that there are no reports available so far for spread of this virus in other parts of the country. Doctors say that prevention of the disease can easily be done. “Prevention by the disease can be done by preventing mosquito bite, using repellents and wearing full sleeves. It is diagnosed with the blood igm levels and Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). There is no definite treatment of the disease. Treatment is with fluids and supportive care. In India, it is prevalent in Rajasthan, Gujarat and South Indian states," Manjeetha Nath Das, consultant-internal medicine, Columbia Asia Hospital, Gurgaon.

There is no vaccination or specific treatment available for the virus but medical practitioners advice that it is important to recognize the disease and manage the symptoms.

“Testing can be done by looking for antibodies against the virus. This test may be negative up to eight days after onset of symptoms. Additionally, these tests lack specificity and sensitivity. We can now test for West Nile Virus using advanced diagnostic tests that are highly sensitive and specific and can detect viral RNA from the second day of the infection," Aparna Kotekar, head of the molecular department, iGenetic Diagnostics.

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