It was the low prevalence of Japanese encephalitis and Plasmodium falciparum malaria in the State that led the Health Department to detect the Nipah virus infection in Kozhikode district.
The samples of serum, sputum and brain fluids of victims who showed symptoms similar to Japanese encephalitis were promptly sent to virology institutes for examination. The alertness of doctors attached to critical care medicine of Baby Memorial Hospital in the city enabled the Health authorities pick up the clues after Mohammed Salih, the second member of the Panthirikkara Sooppikkada family in Changaroth grama panchayat near Perambra, died due to Nipah virus infection.
Mohammed Salih had shown similar symptoms as his brother, Mohammed Sadik, who succumbed to the disease on May 5. Tests confirmed that the infection was not due to Japanese encephalitis, but Nipah virus.
“Detecting the virus has been a great achievement for the Health Department of the State. We are still studying how the virus infected the first victim,” G. Arun Kumar, Head of the Manipal Centre for Virus Research under the Manipal Academy of Higher Education, told The Hindu on Tuesday.
He said different studies were being carried out to determine how the virus reached Kozhikode. The rare infection may have spread from fruit bats to livestock and humans, resulting in an outbreak. “Fruit bats are migratory in nature and investigation is being done to ascertain the transmission of the virus from bats to humans,” said Dr. Arun Kumar, adding that the focus at present was on controlling the disease.
‘Situation under control’
Rajeev Sadanandan, Additional Chief Secretary, Department of Health and Family Welfare, said the situation was under control at present. “However, the Health Department can declare that the outbreak has been contained only after a month since the incubation period of the infection ranges from a week to more than 18 days,” he added.
He said the strong primary health care sector in the State had been effective in identifying the virus. “Our surveillance methods are intact and we follow international protocols in dealing with the outbreak,” he added.
Meanwhile, Valachukeetil Moosa, 55, father of Mohammed Sadik and Mohammed Salih, who has been infected with the Nipah virus, is battling for life at Baby Memorial Hospital in the city.