Kerala health department issues Nipah alert
KOZHIKODE: After the Nipah scare that claimed 18 conirmed lives this year, the health and family welfare department in the state on Thursday issued an alert against the deadly virus, source of which is still unknown.
Additional chief secretary Rajeev Sadanandan directed medical colleges, district hospitals and taluk hospitals to adopt precautionary measures while dealing with patients suffering from Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS).
“The transmission of Nipah virus traditionally starts around December and lasts till June. Therefore, it is important to alert the public not to eat fruits bitten by bats. They should consume fruits and vegetables only after properly washing them,” the directive said.
Patients with cough are to be directed to report to a cough corner, adding masks should be made available there. “Anyone with cough should be directed to cover their mouth with a towel whenever they travel outside and also when they are interacting with family members in the house,” the directive further stated.
The Nipah virus had claimed 18 lives in the district earlier this year, according to the Kerala government statistics. Two patients were saved after quarantine treatment. However, according to some international journals, there were 23 suspected cases and 21 died.
Minister for Health KK Shylaja dismissed the claim saying that only 18 deaths were conirmed to be caused by Nipah and the cause of three other deaths were yet to be ascertained.
According to health researchers, the virus was irst identiied in Kampung Sungai Nipah (hence the name) area of Malaysia in 1998 when a brain fever epidemic broke out.
The infection was reported in Bangladesh in 2001 after it spread to humans who consumed date palm sap contaminated by infected fruit bats.
The virus can also pass on to humans from fruits that have been touched by bats. It could spread from infected people to others.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO), human-to-human transmission has also been documented, including at a hospital in India. Vaccine has not been developed yet to prevent the infection.
The infection is associated with encephalitis (inlammation of the brain). The disease begins with breathing dificulty, terrible headache and fever and progresses to brain fever. Death rate among infected people is 74.5 per cent.
The infection in humans has a range of clinical presentations, from asymptomatic infection to acute respiratory syndrome and fatal encephalitis, says WHO. The primary treatment for human cases is intensive supportive care.