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Nipah virus kills 10 in Kerala

| | New Delhi/Kochi
Nipah virus kills 10 in Kerala

With mysterious Nipah virus (NiV) reportedly claiming 10 lives in the last few days in Kerala, the Union Health Ministry has rushed a Central team headed by the Director of National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to help the Kerala Government contain the infection. The dead included a nurse treating a virus-infected patient in the State. Nipah was first identified in Malaysia in 1998 with pigs as the intermediate hosts. 

Kerala has been put on high alert with 10 deaths being investigated for possible links to the Nipah virus. Five deaths have already been confirmed as Nipah casualties. The disease with 70 per cent mortality rate has fruit bats and pigs as its natural hosts. It is also capable of causing diseases in domestic animals.

“We are closely monitoring the situation. I have spoken to Alphons (Union Minister of Tourism who hails from the southern State) and K Shailaja, Kerala Health Minister, and assured them all support of the Central Government. I have also dispatched a Central team to assist the State Government and initiate required steps,” Union Health Minister JP Nadda said in a statement from Geneva.

The multi-disciplinary team, which is headed by NCDC Director Dr Sujeet Kumar Singh, comprises officials from the department of Animal Husbandry, National Institute of Immunology and Indian Council of Medical Research, among others.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s office tweeted a Statewide alert has been issued and that the Government has opened a 24-hour control room.

An official said panic has gripped Kozhikode and Malappuram in northern Kerala as it has been confirmed that five of the ten fever-related deaths in the region in the fortnight were caused by the deadly Nipah.

State Health Minister KK Shailaja said that analyses of blood and body fluids had confirmed that NiV had caused the death of three persons from Sooppikkada in Changaroth Panchayat in the Perambra region of Kozhikode district. She said another person currently undergoing treatment had been confirmed to have been contracted the virus.

“Tests have confirmed that the deaths of three persons — two young men and a woman, a close relative of theirs — from Perambra had been due to Nipah virus. It has also been confirmed that the youth’s father, currently under treatment, is also hit by the virus,” the Minister said. At least 25 people have been hospitalised with NiV symptoms.

She said the Health Department is waiting for the results of the analyses of the blood and body fluid samples taken from three others who had died in the recent days after showing symptoms of virus infection.

The death of Lini, a nurse at the Government Taluk Hospital in Perambra, has shocked the doctors and paramedical staff attending the patients showing symptoms of the virus infection even as two nurses were admitted to hospital with similar symptoms.

Health Secretary Rajeev Sadanandan said the NiV was unlikely to become an epidemic and will be limited to the particular region.

As there is no vaccine for the disease, the WHO says that ribavarin can reduce the symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and convulsions associated with the disease.

Individuals infected need to be hospitalised and isolated. Special care should be taken to prevent human-to-human transmission. Surveillance systems should be established to detect the virus quickly and to initiate appropriate control measures, as per the WHO.



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