After a gap of over three years, a case of the zoonotic Nipah virus infection was reported in Kozhikode district of Kerala on Sunday morning, with the death of a 12-year-old boy from Pazhoor, near Chathamangalam, at a private hospital.
State Health Minister Veena George told the media that a contact list of 188 persons, a majority of them healthcare workers, had been prepared. “A total of 20 of them, termed high-risk contacts, are being shifted to the Government Medical College Hospital, Kozhikode (MCH). Two of the healthcare workers — at the MCH and a private hospital — are symptomatic ,” she said. Others were under isolation.
A team from the National Centre for Disease Control reached the State to provide support. Kozhikode is reporting the deadly infection for the second time in three years. Eighteen lab-confirmed cases and seven suspected ones were reported from the district in May-June 2018. A couple of the infected persons were from the nearby Malappuram district. There were 16 lab-confirmed deaths and seven suspected deaths.
The virus is transmitted to people from animals and can also be passed on through contaminated food or directly from person-to-person. Fruit bats are considered to be a natural reservoir of the virus. Symptoms include acute encephalitis and respiratory illnesses.
The Minister said the boy was initially taken to a private clinic at Eranjimavu with fever and other symptoms on August 29. He was taken to two private hospitals on August 31, before being shifted to the MCH. He spent around 20 hours at the MCH and was again shifted to another private hospital on September 1. It was the staff at the private hospital who suspected the infection to be Nipah. The initial tests were done at the National Virology Institute’s Alappuzhua unit. Ms. George said the final report from the NIV lab in Pune came by Saturday night and steps were being taken to shift him to the MCH. However, the boy passed away by 5 a.m. on Sunday.
An alert has been declared in Kozhikode and surrounding districts of Malappuram and Kannur. Ms. George said the government had contacted the Indian Council of Medical Research to procure monoclonal antibodies for the treatment. It would be made available from Australia in a week.