A cop stands guard as medical staff prepare an isolated casualty ward inside a hospital in Kochi on Monday. Reuters
AM Abdussalam / Ashraf Padanna
High alert has been declared in Kerala on Tuesday following confirmation of deadly Nipah virus presence in the blood samples of a 23-year-old engineering student from Ernakulam by the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune.
The youth was admitted at a private hospital in Kochi with high fever. Minister for Health KK Shailaja said four others, including two nurses who had come in close contact with the patient, have contracted fever. While the two nurses and one friend of the patient have been put under observation at the private hospital, another friend, who also reported to have a fever, has been moved into the isolation ward at the Government Medical College, Kalamassery, near here.
“Two nurses who took care of the patient have also been put under observation,” Minister Shailaja said.
The minister said that there was no need to panic as all precautionary measures have been taken. “A high-level medical team is camping here to assess the situation,” she said.
The World Health Organisation has listed the Nipah virus among the eight priority diseases like Ebola and Zika that could cause a global epidemic.
It spreads from animals to humans or through contaminated food and directly between people. Fruit bats are the natural carriers of the virus. Early symptoms include fever, headache, muscle pain, dizziness and nausea.
A six-member team from various institutes under the central government have also reached Kochi, the minister said.
The confirmation by NIV-Pune comes after the blood samples examined at two virology institutes — Manipal Institute of Virology and Kerala Institute of Virology and Infectious Diseases — had indicated Nipah.
The minister said NIV-Pune has a stock of human monoclonal antibody, an antibody to fight Nipah, which if required, will be brought in. It is a non-patented drug, and an antibody, which can neutralise the effects of Nipah virus. However, it’s not a vaccine. She urged the public not to spread any wrong information, especially through social media. “We’re closely monitoring the condition of the youth and the people who had come in direct contact with him,” the minister said. “The condition of the youth is stable. He’s responding to medicines and taking foods,” she said. Only when the patient is able to speak properly, the doctors and experts will be able to find where all he went and what kind of food/fruits he ate.
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