A 39-year-old man in Kerala’s Kozhikode district, who had sought treatment at a private hospital where Nipah virus-affected were treated for other ailments earlier, has tested positive for the virus, taking the total known Nipah infections in the southern state to six. The zoonotic virus, transmitted between species from animals to humans, has already killed two people in Kerala this year, in its fourth outbreak since 2018.
State Health Minister Veena George’s office on Friday said that the 39-year-old man has been confirmed with the Nipah virus after his samples turned positive. He was under observation in a hospital.
The virus strain seen in the state was the Bangladesh variant, which originated 5 km from the forest, spreads from human to human and has a high mortality rate, though it is less infectious, the government has said.
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has sent monoclonal antibody, required to treat the Nipah virus infection, to Kerala. The medicine is yet to be clinically proven, but is the only available antiviral treatment for the Nipah virus infection.
The National Institute of Virology and the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB) have sent mobile testing vans to Kozhikode. This will boost testing.
A central team is also in Kerala to monitor the situation.
People have been asked to avoid liquor collected in open vessels from palm trees.
A 24-year-old health worker at a private hospital in Kozhikode was yesterday diagnosed with the virus.
706 people are on the contact list, of which, 77 are in the high-risk category, while 153 are health workers. Nobody in the high-risk category is showing symptoms currently, Kerala Health Minister Veena George said on Wednesday.
As many as 13 people are presently in the hospital under observation, and are showing mild symptoms like headache, she said.
Ms George said that the state is aiming for “proactive detection” of infection before cases are confirmed in labs. The health administration is monitoring clinical symptoms so that alerts can be sounded in advance.
The state administration, Ms George said, is focusing on tracing contacts of infected persons early and isolating those with symptoms.
There are no vaccines to prevent or cure the infection, which has a mortality rate of between about 70 per cent. The usual treatment is to provide supportive care.
Infected people initially develop symptoms that include fever, respiratory distress, headaches, and vomiting, the World Health Organization (WHO) says. Encephalitis and seizures can also occur in severe cases, leading to coma.
In 2018, an outbreak in Kerala claimed 21 lives, with other outbreaks in 2019 and 2021.