With one person testing positive for the Nipah virus in Kerala, the state Health Department has said that 311 people have been quarantined in their homes. These people were directly or indirectly in contact with the 23-year-old patient. District authorities are in touch with those among the 311 who were in direct contact with the patient.
Four people have already been admitted to an isolation ward in Kalamassery Medical College. Among these four, three were part of the medical team that tended to the patient, which includes two nurses. The fourth person who has been admitted to the isolation ward is a friend of the patient who stayed with him during a college internship in Thrissur district.
The Kerala government recently confirmed that the 23-year-old student admitted at a private hospital in Ernakulam had contacted Nipah. While the government is trying to find the source of the infection, it is proving difficult, considering that the young man travelled between three districts — his hometown in Ernakulam, his college in Thodupuzha and Thrissur for his internship.
He has interacted with other students and people in the organisation where he interned. The Kerala government has a list of all these people, and nodal officers appointed in various districts have been told to keep in touch with each of them.
The government has also set up control rooms in various districts. Members of the district administration and doctors who combated the first Nipah outbreak in Kozhikode like former District Collector UV Jose, corporation health officer R S Gopakumar, Arogya Keralam District Program Manager Dr Naveen visited various control rooms to brief them. Doctors from AIIMS, NIV Pune and from the National Institute of Epidemiology in Chennai also visited them. Dr Tarun, Dr Aarthi and Dr Hari from the Epidemiology Institute will study what the source of the virus is and how it spread.
The government said that after it set up a control room and gave out a helpline number, it has continuously been receiving calls from anxious people, and most queries are about eating fruits, moving in crowded places and interacting with pets. The government has reiterated that in all districts put together, 311 people have been quarantined and the spread of the disease will be contained.
Last year, Kerala had seen an outbreak of Nipah, the origin of which was traced to Kozhikode. The virus had claimed 17 lives then, including the first victim. Scientists had established then that fruit bats were the carriers of the virus. However, pigs can also carry and transmit it.
At present there is no cure or vaccine for the virus. Ribavirin, an antiviral medication which has been used to treat certain viral infections, is being given to some people.
The public is being advised to take precautionary measures by not eating half eaten/bitten fruits, palm sap and to take protective measures such as using masks and washing hands thoroughly.
The Kerala government has set up control rooms to monitor and deal with Nipah as well, and they can be reached at 1077 and 1056. You can call these numbers at any time for any information or query related to the Nipah virus.