The serum samples of a 23-year-old male student in Kerala’s Ernakulam district, that were sent for further tests to the National Institute of Virology in Pune, have come back positive for Nipah virus, confirmed Health Minister KK Shailaja on Tuesday.
Addressing a press conference in Kochi, the minister said the government received the tests results earlier today which confirmed the virus infection. The minister assured that the government has taken all precautionary steps to prevent the spread of the infection.
The 23-year-old patient, a native of Paravur in Ernakulam district, is stable and has been taken off support systems. Two nurses, who were in contact with him at the hospital, are under observation. The patient, seen as the ‘index’ case of the virus, is a student of an institute near Thodupuzha and had attended a camp in Thrissur district. All those who were in contact with him during the period when he had fever are being monitored by the health department.
The Nipah virus, an emerging zoonotic disease that can be transmitted from animals to humans, was first identified in 1998-99 among pig farmers in Malaysia and Singapore. Fruit bats are considered to be the natural carriers of the virus. In Kerala, the virus was reported last year in patients in Kozhikode and Malappuram district and had led to 17 deaths. The virus has a high case fatality rate hovering between 40-75%.
Having gained the experience from battling the virus infection last year, the health minister said her department is fully equipped to deal with any kind of emergency. Isolation wards and fever clinics have been opened at the Medical College in Ernakulam district.
An expert team of doctors, including those who battled the virus last year in Kozhikode, are present in Kochi to monitor the situation. Ribovarin tablets, an antiviral medication used as part of supportive care, are in ample stock. Private hospitals and those on the periphery have been directed to send all suspected cases to Medical Colleges where the patients can be admitted to isolation wards.
“There’s no need to panic or be scared. Since we have the experience of last year, we can take the virus head-on. We have a set of guidelines that we are adhering to. We advise everyone who has fever-like symptoms to get diagnosed immediately,” Shailaja said.