Kerala treating suspected Nipah case as 'positive', awaits crucial report

The National Institute of Virology’s Alappuzha unit as well as a private lab in Bengaluru have stated that the 23-year-old man quarantined in Ernakulam is a positive case; however, the government is awaiting NIV-Pune’s report

By Banjot Kaur
Published: Monday 03 June 2019

While the Kerala government still awaits result from National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, confirming if a 23-yr-old resident of Ernakulam is actually suffering from the deadly Nipah virus, sources in Kerala’s health department have said they will get results only by the night of June 3 or the morning of June 4. 

On May 19 last year, a Nipah virus outbreak had been reported in Kozhikode district, also in Kerala. Of the eighteen people affected, one managed to survive. 

Kerala’s health minister K K Shailaja has said the patient who is being treated at the government medical college at Ernakulam is stable.

Addressing media on the evening of June 3, after chairing a high level meeting with the top brass of the state's health department and district officials, Shailaja said the government, as a precautionary measure, is treating the case as a “positive” one and is following all the requisite protocols.

“The man has been kept in the isolation ward. All 86 people who came in contact with him are under surveillance at their homes. We are fully equipped to deal with any eventuality,” she claimed.

An advisory has been issued to all private hospitals that in case of any suspicious case, they should inform the government. Shailaja and other senior health department officials will stay in Ernakulam for four days.

A control room has also been set up at the collector’s office in Ernakulam, Shailaja said, adding that another one had been set up at the Ernakulam college where the man is admitted.

She said a lot of rumour-mongering had been going on. To assist people, a helpline has been set up. People can call at 1077/1056 or email at to clear any doubt or get any information

“The man was confirmed of having Nipah virus by a private hospital in Ernakulam, which had sent the blood sample to a lab in Bengaluru. However, till we get the final results from NIV-Pune, we can’t say if this was a confirmed case of the deadly virus,” Ernakulam district medical officer NK Kuttappan told Down To Earth (DTE).

Meanwhile, earlier on June 3, Shailaja had said that the report from NIV’s unit at Alappuzha did find an element of Nipah virus but it could not confirm this. Hence the results from Pune were important. While the man belongs to Ernakulam, he had been to Thrissur as part of a training camp and also had been in Idukki for a while. Therefore, all three districts are under the watch of health officials.

The disease is considered deadly because, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are currently no drugs or vaccines specifically for a Nipah virus infection. The fatality rate is high —ranging from 40 per cent to 75 per cent.

As far as the transmission is concerned, WHO says during the first recognised outbreak in Malaysia, which also affected Singapore, most human infections resulted from direct contact with sick pigs or their contaminated tissue.

“In subsequent outbreaks in Bangladesh and India, consumption of fruits or fruit products (such as raw date palm juice) contaminated with urine or saliva from infected fruit bats was the most likely source of infection,” notes WHO and warns human-to-human transmission of Nipah virus has also been reported among family and care givers of infected patients.

Sources in Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare say a team would go to Kerala but there is no official word on the outbreak from it about the outbreak.

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