Man tests positive for Nipah virus infection in Kochi

Updated: Jun 04, 2019, 11:49 IST | mid-day online desk

Infected people initially develop influenza-like symptoms of fever, headache, myalgia, vomiting and sore throat. This can be followed by dizziness, drowsiness, altered consciousness, and neurological signs that indicate acute encephalitis

Man tests positive for Nipah virus infection in Kochi
Pic courtesy/Twitter/ANI

A 23-year-old man in Ernakulam district of Kerala has tested positive for Nipah virus infection, state Health and Family Welfare Minister K K Shailaja said here on Tuesday. A blood sample of the man was sent to the National Institute of Virology in Pune which confirmed the infection, she told a press conference. 

According to the WHO, Nipah virus is a newly emerging disease that can be transmitted from its reservoir (natural wildlife host), the flying foxes (fruit bats), to both animals and humans. It takes its name from Sungai Nipah, a village in Malaysia where it was first identified. Human infection can range from asymptomatic infection, acute respiratory infection (mild, severe), and fatal encephalitis. Infected people initially develop influenza-like symptoms of fever, headache, myalgia, vomiting and sore throat. This can be followed by dizziness, drowsiness, altered consciousness, and neurological signs that indicate acute encephalitis. Some people can also experience atypical pneumonia and severe respiratory problems, including acute respiratory distress. Encephalitis and seizures occur in severe cases, progressing to coma within 24 to 48 hours.

The Kerala Health department has initiated precautionary measures to deal with the possible outbreak of Nipah virus. Shailaja said in Thiruvananthapuram the 23-year-old college student, who has been admitted to a private hospital in Kochi.

She said isolation wards have been set up at the Kalamassery Medical College Hospital in Kochi. The minister rushed to Kochi after briefing Chief MinisterPinarayi Vijayan about the development. She chaired a high-level meeting with top health officials and people's representatives to review the situation. Addressing the media after the meeting, she said the samples were sent to the State Institute of Virology and Infectious Diseases in Alappuzha for examination and it was found that the student was infected with a virus having similarities with Nipah.

The final confirmation from the National Institute of Virology in Pune is expected tonight, she said. Instilling confidence among the people, the minister said there was no need for any concern and the government, which successfully battled the Nipah outbreak in Kozhikode and Malappuram districts last year, was fully capable of dealing with the situation. The minister appealed to social media users not to create panic among the public. Medical experts from Kozhikode have already reached Kochi and there are enough medicines and medical equipment to deal with the situation, she said.

Health workers are being imparted training in case the test in Pune institute is positive and more cases are reported. She said a list of 86 people the student had come in contact with has been prepared. They were under observation and will report to the nearest medical facility if they develop influenza-like symptoms like fever, headache, myalgia (muscle pain), vomiting and sore throat, she said.

A control room has been opened in Ernakulam district headquarters. Earlier, a meeting of officials of the Health Department and Ernakulam district authorities, chaired by Principal Secretary (Health) Rajan Khobragade, reviewed the situation. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the government was taking precautionary steps and monitoring the situation. The chief minister also asked people not to indulge in fake campaign about the Nipah virus on social media.

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