KOZHIKODE, May 21: The National Virology Institute, Pune, confirmed that the contagious fever that has killed several people in Kozhikode and Malappuram districts over the last fortnight is due to Nipah virus (NiV). Six more people succumbed to symptoms suspected to be that of Nipah virus on Sunday.
On Monday morning, a 31-year-old nurse at Perambra Taluk hospital succumbed due to suspected symptoms of the virus taking the final toll to 10.
A high-level central team will visit the district on May 21 and inspect areas where the disease has been reported.
It is the first detection in Kerala of the Nipah virus which has a high fatality rate and spreads mainly through bats, pigs and other animals. Its symptoms include fever, vomiting, headache and respiratory problems. Rajeev Sadanandan, additional chief secretary, department of health & family welfare, told TOI that the virus was confirmed in tests conducted at the Pune institute on samples of the three deceased from a family at Changaroth panchayat. "We will now treat all persons presenting similar symptoms as potential Nipah-infected cases as part of disease surveillance,"Sadanandan said.
He said that the department has not been able to ascertain the extent of the spread of the disease as the virus has an incubation period of four to 18 days. Health workers have been asked to take the highest level of protection while handling patients. The death toll due to suspected Nipah virus infection rose to nine on Sunday with the death of six more persons who had shown symptoms of the disease. Of this, two deaths were reported from Kozhikode and four from Malappuram district. The deceased from Kozhikode have been identified as Ismail, 40, from Kootalida and Janaki, 50, from Perambra. The suspected Nipah virus deaths from Malappuram are Velayudhan, 48, from Kolathur, Sindhu, 32, from Munniyur, Lijitha, 22, from Thennala and a 13 year-old boy from Kottakkal.
Health dept issues alert, opens control room in Koz
Malappuram district medical officer Dr K Sakeena said that the symptoms found in the deceased persons from the district were similar to that of Nipah virus infection and the blood samples of deceased have been sent to virology lab at Kasturba medical college, Manipal.
The health department has activated precautionary measures and issued an alert to the public. "As the primary host of Nipah virus is fruit bats, the disease control and containment strategy include asking people to desist from eating bat eaten fruits. Also, the district collector has been asked to stop toddy tapping in the area as toddy can become contaminated with saliva or bat urine. Pigs too can serve as intermediate hosts of the virus and as per reports there are many pig farms in the area and steps have been taken in that regard," Sadanandan said.
A district-level special task force headed by district collector U V Jose has been formed to coordinate precautionary steps and disease management activities. The district-level task force was formed at an emergency meeting chaired by director of health services (DHS) Dr R L Saritha at the collectorate on Sunday. Speaking to the media, Dr Saritha said that both government and private hospitals have decided to take joint measures to combat the rare viral disease.
A single-window system has also put in place in the district to coordinate and monitor emergency treatment facilities. Dr Chandini, head of department of emergency medicine, Kozhikode Government Medical College hospital, will head the singlewindow mechanism. The DHS informed that a round-the-clock control room at the state level and another one in Kozhikode district were opened to help the public. The district-level control room can be reached at 0495-2376063.