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