Nipah virus claims 12 in Kerala, Govt tells citizens not to ‘panic’


    In the wake of the Nipah virus claiming 12 lives in Kerala, the Union Health Ministry on Tuesday asked people not to “panic” and said the outbreak is “unlikely” to spread as early and efficient containment measures were being taken. The Health Ministry also noted that the outbreak appeared to be a “localised” occurrence. “The situation is under control,” said Union Health Minister JP Nadda on Tuesday. The minister after reviewing the situation in Kerala with Union health secretary Preeti Sudan and director general, ICMR, Dr Balram Bhargava, also directed officials to extend all support to the Kerala government in its prevention and management.

    The health ministry said a total of nine persons are currently undergoing treatment and isolation wards have been opened in several hospitals in Kozhikode. It said that a multi-disciplinary central team from the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is in Kerala and is constantly reviewing the situation. Samples collected from the virus have been sent to the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune for testing.

    The NCDC team has visited the house in Kerala’s Perambra from where the initial death was reported, and found many bats in a well from where the family took water. “Some of the bats have been caught and sent for examination to a laboratory to confirm whether they were the cause of the disease,” an official statement said.

    In Maharashtra, the health minister has given out a precautionary advisory to all the public hospitals in the city and district level. Maharashtra State surveillance officer from Pune, Dr Pradip Awate, said, “The outbreak can be seen at the places where particular species of bats, fruit bats are in higher number as well as the agriculture pattern. The virus is spread after the fruit bat throw consumed fruits which are later eaten by animals or human. The saliva of the fruit bat contains this virus.”

    It is transmitted if an animal or human being consumes fruits which were half-eaten by the fruit bat. The person with this virus needs to be kept in an isolated space because it can be transmitted through contact.

    Speaking about the symptoms of the virus and how it is diagnosed, Dr Awate, said, “It can cause brain fever, headache, nausea and mental instability. It can also lead to coma. Chances of fatality are 40 to 70 per cent. While there is no specific drug to treat the virus, we usually use ribavirin antiviral drugs to control it. The patient can be diagnosed using blood or urine samples and also using swap of nasal or throat.”

    According to the experts, the virus was identified around two decades ago. A detailed study and research on the treatment is yet to be done. Nipah virus was first identified during an outbreak in Kampung Sungai Nipah in Malaysia in 1998. While In 2004, people in Bangladesh were infected with Nipha after consuming date palm which was infected by fruit bats.

    The prevention of the Nipah virus can be done by avoiding contact with pigs and pig handlers, maintain hygiene consuming cooked food. Avoid meeting people affected by the virus, early diagnosis, and treatment. “People with good immunity can battle the virus. Even after recovery, it is possible that the person can undergo other health complication like epileptic attacks,” Dr Awate said.dnaindia

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