Ni­pah Ner­vous­ness!

It is a rare and deadly virus trans­mit­ted to hu­mans from an­i­mals.

Alive - - Contents - ■ by Ma­haraaj K. Koul

Af­ter a rel­a­tive calm of about a week, the Ker­ala gov­ern­ment has is­sued a Ni­pah virus alert. It di­rected the state health administration in all dis­tricts to screen peo­ple who had close con­tact with even sus­pected Ni­pah pa­tients. “On 1 June, six more peo­ple in Kozhikode were ad­mit­ted to hospi­tal with symp­toms of Ni­pah,” said Dr R. L. Saritha, health sec­re­tary, Ker­ala. Till 31 May, the Ni­pah virus claimed 16 lives in the state, as per the lat­est of­fi­cial fig­ures. The toll ex­cludes the first vic­tim Mo­ham­mad Sabith (23) who suc­cumbed be­fore his blood sam­ples could be sent for tests.

Ac­cord­ing to sources, af­ter the num­ber of deaths had sta­bi­lized at 13 and two other pa­tients un­der­go­ing treat­ment at the Kozhikode Med­i­cal Col­lege showed signs of re­cov­ery, the state health depart­ment had heaved a sigh of re­lief. At least 178 fluid sam­ples, of the to­tal 196, which were sent for tests to the Na­tional In­sti­tute of Virol­ogy (NIV), Pune, were found neg­a­tive. The fresh ad­vi­sory has urged all per­sons present at the Kozhikode Med­i­cal Col­lege vis­it­ing the ca­su­alty, CT scan or wait­ing rooms on 14 May be­tween 10AM and 5PM, to im­me­di­ately con­tact the state’s Ni­pah Cell. It has also asked peo­ple, who vis­ited the Balussery Taluk Hospi­tal on 18 May, till 2PM, to re­port to the cell. Peo­ple, who were in con­tact with the de­ceased on 30 May and 31 May, have also been ad­vised to visit the Ni­pah Cell.

In Ker­ala

The health of­fi­cials were so far un­der the im­pres­sion that the point of con­tact be­tween the in­fected and the or­di­nary pa­tients were lim­ited to the Kozhikode Med­i­cal Col­lege and the Per­am­bra Taluk Hospi­tal, where the first vic­tim was ini­tially ad­mit­ted. But now the sur­veil­lance has been ex­tended to the Balussery Hospi­tal, where the lat­est vic­tim Rasil (25) was first ad­mit­ted. Rasil of Kot­toor vil­lage died at Med­i­cal Col­lege Hospi­tal on 31 May. Mean­while, doc­tors at the Eastern Com­mand Hospi­tal, Kolkata, are wait­ing for a test re­port from NIV be­fore ar­riv­ing at any con­clu­sion on the cause of death of Seenu Prasad (27), a sol­dier

of the Sig­nals Reg­i­ment. Prasad, posted at Fort Wil­liams, was ad­mit­ted to hospi­tal on 20 May with Ni­pah-like symp­toms. He died on 25 May.

The out­break

In view of the Ni­pah virus out­break, the Syro – Mal­abar Church in Kozhikode has de­cided to stop serv­ing the Holy Com­mu­nion to the faith­ful on their tongue. The Thama­rassery dio­cese, in a cir­cu­lar notice asked priests to place the wafer in the hands of devo­tees rather than on their tongues. The Thama­rassery Bishop Mar Remi­giose Ichananiyil also urged fol­low­ers to fol­low the di­rec­tions of the au­thor­i­ties to pre­vent the spread of the deadly virus. The Ker­ala health min­is­ter K. K. Shailaja said those

Sis­ter Lini Puthussery (31), a nurse at the Per­am­bra Taluk Hospi­tal, who suc­cumbed to the lethal Ni­pah out­break in Ker­ala on 21 May af­ter she treated a fam­ily of 3 who had con­tracted the virus, tes­ti­fies to the hero­ism of the nurs­ing pro­fes­sion. Her own story, the young sons she left be­hind, her poignant last note to her hus­band, have stirred many hearts.

that had come in con­tact with Ni­pah pa­tients should be cau­tious till the end of the virus’s in­cu­ba­tion pe­riod and, hence, daily screen­ing of these peo­ple has be­come es­sen­tial to pre­vent the spread of the brain-dam­ag­ing ill­ness.

As of now, there are

1,949 per­sons in the list who are reg­u­larly be­ing mon­i­tored by health work­ers. In a pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sure, all nine staff mem­bers at Balussery Taluk Hospi­tal in Kozhikode have been sanc­tioned leave. The Ni­pah virus is a newly emerg­ing zoono­sis (which is trans­mit­ted to hu­mans from an­i­mals) that causes se­vere dis­ease in both an­i­mals and hu­mans. Ni­pah was first re­ported in Bangladesh’s Me­herpur dis­trict as a cause of an out­break of en­cephali­tis in 2001. Since then, Ni­pah out­breaks have been re­ported al­most ev­ery year in some dis­tricts of the neigh­bour­ing coun­try. “Stud­ies in Bangladesh have re­vealed that con­sump­tion of palm sap in­fected with bats’ urine and saliva was mostly re­spon­si­ble for the trans­mis­sion of in­fec­tion from bats to hu­mans and then hu­man to hu­man as well,” says NIV sci­en­tist Dr Pragya Yadav.


It is a pre­miere virol­ogy re­search in­sti­tute in In­dia un­der the In­dian Coun­cil of Med­i­cal Re­search. Its sci­en­tists are now fo­cus­ing on how to catch hold of fruit bats and check as many sam­ples as pos­si­ble. The sam­ples of bats found in the well of a house in Per­am­bra, con­sid­ered the epi­cen­ter of the out­break in Ker­ala, tested neg­a­tive for the virus at the Na­tional In­sti­tute of High Se­cu­rity An­i­mal

Fruit bats are the nat­u­ral hostsfor the Ni­pah virus.

At­ten­dants wear­ing masks while they help a pa­tient at the Gov­ern­ment Med­i­cal Col­lege hospi­tal in Kozhikode, Ker­ala.

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