Determined to prevent the spread of Nipah virus, the Kerala government has swung into action as soon as four cases of infection were confirmed in Kozhikode. The state government has planned a pre-emptive approach to curb the spread of infection. Kerala’s earlier fights against the Nipah virus, dreaded for its high fatality rates, had earned international acclaim.
Kerala Health Minister Veena George has said 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.
Nipah infection can cause problems ranging from respiratory issues to fatal encephalitis – meaning inflammation of the brain. The symptoms include fever, headache, cough, difficulty breathing and vomiting. As the infection becomes more serious, patients can experience disorientation, seizures and may also sleep into a coma.
Responding to a question in Assembly today, the health minister said seven village panchayats — Atanchery, Maruthonkara, Tiruvallur, Kuttiyadi, Kayakkodi, Villyapalli, and Kavilumpara — in Kozhikode district have been declared containment zones. The creation of containment zones is part of the state government’s strategy to limit the spread of infection.
To protect children from getting infected, Education Minister V Sivankutty has directed schools to opt for online exams.
Teams from the National Institute of Virology would reach the southern state today to carry out a survey. A team of epidemiologists from Chennai is also on its way to Kerala.
Ms George said in Assembly today that the virus strain in Kerala was the Bangladesh variant that spreads from human to human and has a high mortality rate. However, she said, this strain is less infectious.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has asked people not to panic and to take precautions instead. “Everyone should strictly follow the instructions of the health department and the police and fully cooperate with the restrictions,” he has said.
The Union Health Ministry has confirmed that two people have died of the infection so far – one on August 30 and the other on Monday.
The zoonotic virus that can spread from animals to humans and then among humans. Fruit bats, also known as flying foxes, are hosts for Nipah virus.