2018 flashback: When Kerala vanquished the Nipah virus

Containment of Nipah virus was definitely a success story for the state Health Department which worked strenuously during those days.

Published: 28th December 2018 02:48 AM  |   Last Updated: 28th December 2018 08:07 AM   |  A+A-

Doctors and nurses at Perambra Taluk Hospital in Kozhikode during the Nipah outbreak (File photo | EPS/TP Sooraj)

Express News Service

The second quarter of 2018 left Kerala with mixed feelings as Nipah virus and nun rape case gave it reasons to worry, with football’s team Santosh Trophy triumph bringing the state joy in between. Battling the Nipah virus was a different experience for the state. All government machinery worked in tandem to contain the spread thus earning accolades from across the world.

The year 2018 was a testing time not only for the people of Kozhikode but also the state’s health sector as a whole. It all began with a spurt in brain fever cases and a few casualties due to it in May. Though the Health Department officially confirmed the presence of Nipah virus only by May 20, the viral disease had already claimed three lives. Fear and panic gripped Kozhikode after the official announcement.

A 50-year-old Kuttiady native Mariyam was the third to die in her family in a span of two weeks. It was just a day ago on May 18 that her relative’s son Mohammed Swalih, 28, died due to high fever. Swalih’s younger brother Mohammed Sabith had died due to the same illness on May 5 while undergoing treatment at the Kozhikode Medical College Hospital.

Also, two members of the family were also undergoing treatment at the same time. The blood samples of all the cases were sent to the National Institute of Virology, Pune, for advanced tests. The authorities had also made arrangements at Kozhikode Medical College Hospital to treat the special cases.

It was on only by May 20 that the laboratory results from the National Institute of Virology confirmed Nipah virus as the cause for the deaths. Meanwhile, a nurse who treated Mohammed Sabith was admitted to Medical College Hospital with the same symptoms. Lini Puthussery, a native of Chempanoda, who was working at Perambra Taluk Hospital, was diagnosed with the same viral disease and succumbed to the viral infection on May 20.

People feared to visit public spaces and restricted themselves to their homes. Schools were shut and gatherings and other social functions were restricted. Awareness campaigns were held to boost the morale of the people and to teach them how to stay safe.

The viral outbreak has also resulted in people ostracising those from Perambra - the epicentre of the outbreak. The nurses and other staff of Perambra Taluk Hospital were not allowed to board on buses or autorickshaws. Everywhere, people were seen with masks on their faces.

Though the viral disease had claimed the lives of 18 patients, including Sabith, the Health Department was successful in containing the viral infection within a few days. The last Nipah-related death was reported on May 30, 10 days after the viral infection was confirmed in the district. Bringing further relief, two patients who were tested positive for Nipah were saved from the jaws of death.

Containment of Nipah virus was definitely a success story for the state Health Department which worked strenuously during those days. A round-the-clock control room was opened in Kozhikode and over 2,500 people were put under surveillance. The blood samples of nearly 300 people were tested during the period.

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