New Delhi: The Union health ministry on Sunday said the Centre has rushed a team of health experts to Kerala after a case of the Nipah virus was detected in Kozhikode. It said a 12-year-old boy showing symptoms of encephalitis and myocarditis (inflammation of brain and heart muscles) was found in Kozhikode district on September 3, who was hospitalised but then died on Sunday morning. His samples that were sent to the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, had tested positive for Nipah. The boy was from Choolur in Chathamangalam panchayat of Kerala.
The Nipah virus infection is a zoonotic illness that is transmitted to humans from animals like fruit bats and pigs and can also be transmitted through contaminated food or directly from person to person. In infected people, it causes a range of illnesses from asymptomatic (subclinical) infection to acute respiratory illness and fatal encephalitis. Consumption of fruits or fruit products such as raw date palm juice contaminated with urine or saliva from infected fruit bats is the most likely source of infection. Human-to-human transmission of Nipah virus has also been reported among family members and caregivers of infected patients.
The Centre has rushed a team of the NCDC, which will provide technical support to the state. The Union health ministry has advised the state to immediately take public health measures to contain the spread of Nipah. These include an active case search in the family, village and areas of Malappuram from where the case had come. Active contact tracing for the past 12 days has begun, and 17 primary contacts of the child have been placed under strict quarantine and isolation. Besides, more samples must be tested to check the spread of the virus. The police cordoned off a 3 km area around the boy’s house, with Chathamangalam completely closed and the nearby panchayats of Nayarkuzhy, Koolimad, Puthiyadam too have been partially shut.
Kerala health minister Veena George said those in the primary contact list of the deceased had not shown any symptoms yet but were being monitored. “Three samples -- plasma, CSF and serum -- were found infected. He was admitted to the hospital with heavy fever four days ago. But on Saturday, his condition became worse. We had sent his samples for testing the day before yesterday,” the minister said.
Kerala had in 2018 also seen a Nipah outbreak in Kozhikode and Malappuram. The state is already braving a tough Covid-19 situation and is reporting the highest number of daily Covid-19 cases.