Nipah breaks out again in Kerala, claims two lives

Two more infected with the virus in Kozhikode district; Kerala government sets up control room, steps up surveillance and contact tracing; district put on high alert

Updated - September 13, 2023 10:58 am IST

Published - September 12, 2023 06:07 pm IST - New Delhi/Kozhikode

Staff members install a sign reading “Nipah isolation ward, entry strictly prohibited” at a hospital in Kerala’s Kozhikode district on September 12, 2023.

Staff members install a sign reading “Nipah isolation ward, entry strictly prohibited” at a hospital in Kerala’s Kozhikode district on September 12, 2023. | Photo Credit: Reuters

Nipah scare returned to Kerala, with two deaths reported from Kozhikode district on Tuesday. Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya confirmed that the deaths were due to Nipah virus.

He said four suspected cases are currently under surveillance and their samples have been sent to the National Institute of Virology, Pune. A Central government team of four experts has also been sent to Kerala to assist the State government in surveillance and reduction in the response time, said the Minister.

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Dr. Mandaviya added that government medical colleges in Kerala were issued guidelines on the precautions to be taken and also provided with protective kits. “This isn’t a new virus, and we have some experience with this,” said the Minister.

Asked if India is looking at importing drugs to treat the Nipah virus patients, the Minister said that “no such cause or need has presented itself as of now.”

“The Ministry hasn’t been alerted to any such need currently. The patients are being managed well but in case there is any requirement we will definitely look into it,’” he said.

Previously, deaths due to Nipah virus infection were reported in Kozhikode district in 2018 and 2021.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, in a social media post on Tuesday, said the State government was viewing the two deaths seriously and the health department has issued an alert in the district.

He also said that there was no need to worry as most of those who were in close contact with the deceased persons are under treatment.

Earlier in the day, State Health Minister Veena George who reached the district, chaired a high-level meeting to evaluate the situation and said that all precautionary steps are in place.

The State Health Department formed core committees for surveillance, sample testing and research management, contact tracing, and patient transportation management, among others.

“Following the deaths, surveillance procedure and contact tracking has been initiated. Hospitals and the health workers have been instructed to follow the infection control protocol, including wearing of PPE kits,” said the State Health Minister while advising that people should avoid unnecessary hospital visits.

The State government has set up a control room in Kozhikode and advised people to use masks as a precautionary measure.

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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Nipah has a relatively high case fatality ratio, and is an emerging zoonotic disease of public health importance in the South East Asia and Western Pacific WHO Regions.

“Nipah virus infection is a zoonotic illness that is transmitted to people from animals and can also be transmitted through contaminated food or directly from person to person. Among infected people, it causes a range of illnesses, from asymptomatic (subclinical) infection to acute respiratory illness and fatal encephalitis,” WHO noted in its information bulletin.

(With PTI inputs)

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