New Delhi: A 39-year-old man in Kerala’s Kozhikode district, who had previously sought treatment at a private hospital where Nipah virus-affected patients were treated for other ailments, has tested positive for the virus. This brings the total number of known Nipah infections in the southern state to six.
The Nipah virus, a zoonotic virus transmitted between species from animals to humans, has already claimed two lives in Kerala this year, marking its fourth outbreak since 2018. The infected man had been under observation in a hospital.
The virus strain detected In the state is the Bangladesh variant, which originated 5 km from a forest, has human-to-human transmission, and carries a high mortality rate, although it is less infectious, as stated by the government.
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has dispatched monoclonal antibodies, necessary for treating Nipah virus infection, to Kerala. While this treatment is yet to be clinically proven, it represents the sole available antiviral treatment for Nipah virus infection.
Mobile testing vans from the National Institute of Virology and the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB) have been deployed to Kozhikode, which will enhance testing efforts. Additionally, a central team is present in Kerala to oversee the situation.
Authorities have advised against consuming liquor collected in open vessels from palm trees, as a preventive measure.
On a related note, a 24-year-old health worker at a private hospital in Kozhikode was diagnosed with the virus recently.
The contact list comprises 706 individuals, with 77 falling into the high-risk category and 153 being health workers. Presently, none of those in the high-risk category are displaying symptoms, according to Kerala Health Minister Veena George. Currently, 13 people are under observation in hospitals, exhibiting mild symptoms such as headaches.
The state’s focus is on proactive detection of infections before lab confirmation. The health administration is closely monitoring clinical symptoms to issue early alerts. Contact tracing and the isolation of individuals with symptoms are key priorities.
No vaccines are available to prevent or cure Nipah virus infection, which has a mortality rate of approximately 70%. Supportive care is the standard treatment. Initially, infected individuals may experience symptoms such as fever, respiratory distress, headaches, and vomiting. Severe cases can lead to encephalitis, seizures, and even coma, as outlined by the World Health Organization (WHO).