A 24-year-old healthcare worker, who had close contact with a Nipah patient, tested positive on Wednesday. This has brought the total number of confirmed cases in the state to five. This development is a direct result of the recent Nipah Virus outbreak in Kerala. This virus has exposed over 700 individuals, resulting in five confirmed cases. Among these 700, approximately 77 individuals are categorized as high-risk, according to Kerala Health Minister Veena George.
What exactly is happening in Kerala right now?
Kerala is currently facing another outbreak of the Nipah virus (NiV), which has claimed two lives this year. In response, the central government has heightened surveillance on bats and deployed a five-member health ministry team to support state authorities. Currently, four virus samples are undergoing testing at the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune, with ongoing genome sequencing efforts to identify the specific strain involved.
Kozhikode in Kerala serves as the epicenter of this outbreak. Local authorities have designated seven areas, including Atanchery, Maruthonkara, Tiruvallur, Kuttiyadi, Kayakkodi, Villyapalli, and Kavilumpara, as containment zones, imposing travel restrictions. Residents in these zones have been strongly advised to adhere strictly to preventive measures, including wearing masks, using sanitizers, and practicing social distancing.
What is the Nipah Virus?
The Nipah virus, initially identified during a 1998 encephalitis outbreak among pig farmers in Perak, Malaysia, has since been reported in various countries, including Singapore, Bangladesh, the Philippines, and India. In India, outbreaks have occurred in geographically distant states like West Bengal, near the Bangladesh border, and Kerala in the south. The virus is notorious for its high fatality rate, as evidenced by outbreaks in Siliguri (2001), Nadia (2007), and Kozhikode, Kerala (2018).
What are the symptoms of the Nipah Virus?
In India, the Nipah virus has been linked to Pteropus bats, considered a potential source of human infection. Infected fruit bats can transmit the disease to both humans and animals, such as pigs. Close contact with an infected animal or its bodily fluids (such as saliva or urine) can result in infection, termed a spillover event. Additionally, transmission can occur through the handling of deceased individuals infected with Nipah. Symptoms of the virus vary from moderate to high fever, headaches, vomiting, muscle pain, and coughing, to severe respiratory problems. Neurological symptoms may include altered consciousness and seizures. Transmission to humans predominantly occurs through direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected bats, pigs, or other affected individuals.
How can we prevent Nipah Virus infection?
Preventing Nipah virus infection involves avoiding exposure to sick pigs and bats in regions where the virus is prevalent. To achieve this, strict adherence to specific practices is essential, including regular handwashing with soap and water, avoiding contact with sick animals or bats, refraining from visiting known bat roosting areas and abstaining from consuming products that may be contaminated by bats, such as raw date palm sap, raw fruit, or fallen fruit. Additionally, it is crucial to avoid any contact with individuals known to have the NiV virus, particularly through contact with their blood or bodily fluids. These precautions are paramount in minimizing the risk of Nipah virus transmission.
What are the steps taken by the Kerala Government to control the Nipah Virus spread?
In response to the confirmation of the Nipah virus cases, the Kerala government has implemented stringent measures to curb its spread. The brain-damaging virus has claimed two lives and infected two others in the northern Kerala district. Recognizing the gravity of the situation, the Kozhikode administration has declared seven village panchayats as containment zones. Kozhikode District Collector A Geetha, in a Facebook post, specified the panchayats included in the containment zones as Atanchery, Maruthonkara, Tiruvallur, Kuttiyadi, Kayakkodi, Villyapalli, and Kavilumpara.
Given the Nipah virus outbreak in Kozhikode, strict containment measures have been enforced, prohibiting travel to and from these zones with police cordoning off affected areas. Only stores selling essential goods and medical supplies may operate between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m., while pharmacies and health centers face no time restrictions. Local self-government institutions can function with minimal staff, while banks, educational institutions, and anganwadis must remain closed. Online services are encouraged, and vehicles on national highways passing through containment zones are prohibited from stopping. All residents are urged to adhere to social distancing, wear masks, and use hand sanitizer.
In response to the Nipah virus confirmation, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has called for calm and vigilance.
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