Nipah Virus: 5 cases, 700 contacts, 77 high-risk; stringent measures in placetext_fields
Kozhikode: A 24-year-old health worker who came into close contact with a Nipah virus patient tested positive on Wednesday, taking the total number of confirmed cases in the state to five.
In response to the growing outbreak, the state government has announced containment zones and strict restrictions to curb the spread of the virus.
A cause for concern lies in the extensive contact list of the infected patients, with approximately 700 people having potentially been exposed to the virus.
Among these 700, around 77 are classified as high-risk, said Kerala's Health Minister, Veena George.
High-risk individuals have been advised to remain isolated within their homes, and the routes taken by the two deceased Nipah patients have been made public to prevent further exposure.
In Kozhikode, restrictions have been imposed on large gatherings at festivals and events.
Furthermore, 58 wards across nine panchayats in Vadakara taluk of Kozhikode district have been declared as containment zones, allowing only essential services and controlled entry and exit.
In these containment zones, shops selling essential goods are permitted to operate from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pharmacies and health centres face no time restrictions.
Additionally, buses and vehicles travelling on national highways passing through these containment zones are prohibited from stopping within the affected areas.
The government has ordered monoclonal antibodies from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to treat the nine-year-old boy in Kozhikode who has contracted the infection.
Although there is no clinical evidence supporting the efficacy of this treatment against Nipah, it remains the only available option. Currently, the young patient is on ventilator support.
Out of the approximately 700 people who had contact with the infected patients, 76 are classified as high-risk, and Kerala's Health Minister reports that they are all in stable condition.
Minister George also emphasizes that while this outbreak has occurred in Kozhikode, the entire state of Kerala is susceptible to such infections, as indicated by studies conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the ICMR.
This outbreak in Kerala involves the Bangladesh variant of the Nipah virus, which is less infectious but has a notably higher mortality rate. This variant primarily spreads from human to human.
Nipah is a zoonotic virus that can be transmitted from infected animals or contaminated food to humans. And then it can transmit from one infected person to another.
The symptoms include fever, headache, cough, difficulty in breathing, and vomiting, which in severe cases turn into swelling of the brain leading to brain death.
Kerala has witnessed Nipah outbreaks in the past, in 2018, where 17 out of 18 patients succumbed to the virus, and some isolated cases in 2019 and 2021.
This recent outbreak has also raised concerns in the neighbouring Dakshina Kannada district of Karnataka. Authorities in Karnataka have initiated stringent measures, including the deployment of police checkposts at border entry points to inspect goods vehicles and fruits coming from Kerala.
Tamil Nadu's Directorate of Public Health and Preventive Medicine has issued an alert in border areas, with health teams screening passengers arriving from Kerala at border checkpoints.
A dedicated team has been deployed around the clock in six districts of Tamil Nadu that share borders with Kerala, namely The Nilgiris, Coimbatore, Tiruppur, Theni, Tenkasi, and Kanyakumari.