KOZHIKODE: The deadly Nipah virus has struck again in Kerala, claiming the life of a 12-year-old boy in Kozhikode district and posing a serious challenge to the state health administration that is already burdened by the ongoing Covid-19 fight.
The boy, a native of Pazhoor in Chathamangalam, was diagnosed with the infection on Saturday night after his samples tested positive at the National Institute of Virology, Pune, and he died at a private hospital here around 4.45am on Sunday. The official confirmation of infection came after his death.
The boy, who developed fever on August 27, was taken to three hospitals, including the Kozhikode Medical College Hospital (MCH), and a private clinic before being admitted to the private hospital.
By Sunday afternoon, authorities traced 188 people on his contact list, of whom two healthcare workers showed symptoms of the virus infection. As many as 20 persons on the contact list — including the boy’s parents — are in the high-risk category and they along with the health workers have been shifted to the medical college. Attempts are on to trace the source of infection.
Health Minister Veena George said the next week will be crucial in preventing the spread of the virus. “Right now, nine ICU beds have been set up at Kozhikode Medical College Hospital. One more will be operational soon. Seven days is the incubation period of Nipah virus and hence, the next week is crucial. There is no need to be panic, but we must be on high alert,” she said after a top-level meeting in Kozhikode on Sunday.
She said a team from NIV-Pune will set up a lab for initial Nipah screening at the MCH on Monday. The three-storey pay ward block of the MCH has been set aside for Nipah care. The state has also approached the ICMR seeking supply of monoclonal antibody medicine that has to be imported from Australia.
In the wake of confirmation of Nipah case, the health department has strengthened preventive measures, said Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. “The health minister has led the formulation of an action plan to contain the spread. As many as 16 committees have been set up based on the plan for contact tracing, community surveillance and data analysis,” he said. “We have held discussions with private hospitals. They have been asked to report unnatural deaths and fever cases,” he said.
Meanwhile, the district administration and the health department have declared a high health alert in Kozhikode district. A complete shutdown has been imposed in ward 9 (Pazhoor) of Chathamangalam panchayat, where the boy lived. Also, partial restrictions are in place in the neighbouring areas. The authorities have also released the route map of the boy. His body was buried at the burial ground of Kannamparambu mosque at Kozhikode Beach, abiding by the protocol.
A team from the National Centre for Disease Control has reached the district to provide support and technical aid to the health department in containing the virus spread. According to sources, the central team assessed that virus infection is not a major outbreak and only a local occurrence. During the first outbreak in the state in 2018, Nipah had claimed the lives of 18 people in Kozhikode.
What happened in 2018
- Nipah virus (NiV) infection is a zoonotic disease which can be transmitted to humans from infected animals
- It is transmitted through virus-contaminated food or directly from person to person
- Fruit bats are considered to be the natural host of the Nipah virus
- Case fatality rate estimated at 40% to 75%. This varies depending on local capabilities for surveillance and clinical management
The first Nipah outbreak in the state was reported in Kozhikode district in May 2018
Soopikada near Perambra was the epicentre of the outbreak
The infection claimed 18 lives in Kozhikode and Malappuram districts
The deceased include nurse Lini Puthussery who attended to an infected person at EMS Memorial Cooperative Hospital at Perambra
Around 2,000 people were isolated as part of containment measures
The outbreak was contained and declared over on June 10, 2018
In 2019, a Nipah case was detected in Ernakulam, but no death was reported
Two of the infected persons survived