Two deaths reported in Kerala due to the Nipah Virus, health minister Mandaviya confirms

The state government set up a control room in Kozhikode on September 12 to control the emergency, after a district-wide health alert was issued on September 11

By Seema Prasad
Published: Tuesday 12 September 2023
Photo: @mansukhmandviya / X, formerly Twitter

The two “unnatural deaths” reported in Kerala’s Kozhikode district were caused by Nipah virus infection, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Mansukh Mandaviya confirmed on September 12, 2023.

Contact tracing of the deceased is underway to prevent an outbreak through high-risk contacts.

So far, five suspected samples have been sent to the National Institute of Virology in Pune to confirm the presence of the virus. They belong to the 49-year-old deceased man’s four relatives, all of whom have been hospitalised.

They include a 10-month-old child, an elderly relative, and the man’s nine-year-old child who is presently on ventilator support but remains stable, Kerala health minister Veena George informed the media.

The state government set up a control room in Kozhikode on September 12 to control the emergency, after a district-wide health alert was issued on September 11.

A team has been sent from the Centre to assess the situation in the district and provide further assistance to the state government.

Earlier on September 12, George chaired a high-level meeting to take stock of the situation. She said 16 committees have been formed and health workers have been asked to follow protocol to prevent the infection from spreading such as the wearing of PPE kits.

The committees will “monitor surveillance, sample test, and research management, contact tracing, and patient transportation management, among others,” news agency Press Trust of India reported.

George negated any sense of fear saying the above measures are only precautionary and advised the public to wear a mask.

Nipah virus (NiV) is a zoonotic virus that can also be transmitted through contaminated food or directly from person to person, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). No drug or vaccine is available to treat the disease.

“Human infections range from asymptomatic infection, acute respiratory infection (mild or severe) and fatal encephalitis,” the WHO says.

The virus was first detected after an outbreak among pig farmers in Malaysia in 1999. It was also found in Bangladesh in 2001, and annual outbreaks are often reported in the country.

India has reported four outbreaks of NiV. The first was reported in Siliguri in West Bengal, where 75 per cent of cases occurred among hospital staff or visitors in a healthcare setting. 

Incidentally, Kozhikode is also where the first NiV outbreak was reported in South India. Deaths due to NiV infection were reported in Kozhikode district in 2018 and 2021. No deaths occurred during the 2019 outbreak in Kerala.

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