No Nipah virus cases for 2nd day, Kerala Health Minister confirms ‘no second wave’

The Kerala government on Sunday said that the Nipah outbreak in the state is under control as there are no fresh positive cases registered for the second day.

71 test samples resulted in a negative, in a fresh round of sampling and testing.

With six confirmed cases of Nipah virus, Kerala has stepped up control measures to contain the deadly outbreak, as the state was hit with virus scare again as two deaths were reported from Kozhikode district on Tuesday.

The first death took place on August 30 and the second death on September 11. The man who died on August 30 was 44 years old, while the second person who died was a 40-year-old man.

Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya confirmed the virus as the cause of death.

Kerala Government takes action

The confirmed Nipah virus cases are currently under surveillance and their samples have been sent to the National Institute of Virology, Pune.

The condition of three Nipah positive patients is stable, while a virus positive nine-year-old boy continues to remain on oxygen support. State Health Minister Veena George said restrictions will be relaxed in some places , where containment zones were declared on the 13th of this month.

A central government team of four experts has also been sent to Kerala to assist the State government in surveillance and reduction in the response time, Dr Mandaviya said.

‘This isn’t a new virus, and we have some experience with this,’ he noted, as deaths have been reported due to the Nipah virus in Kozhikode district in 2018 and 2021.

This is the fourth Nipah outbreak in Kerala since 2018.

Dr. Mandaviya added that government medical colleges in Kerala were issued guidelines on the precautions and also provided with protective kits.

The Minister said ‘no such cause or need has presented itself as of now’ when asked about the need fr=or import of drugs for treatment.

Dr Mandaviya also said that there was no need to worry as most of those who were in close contact with the deceased persons are under treatment.

‘The Ministry hasn’t been alerted to any such need currently. The patients are being managed well but in case there is any requirement we will definitely look into it,’ he said.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, on social media, said the State government was viewing the two deaths seriously and the health department has issued an alert in the district.

Signs and Symptoms of the Nipah Virus

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Nipah has a relatively high case fatality ratio, and is an ’emerging zoonotic disease of public health importance’ in the South East Asia and Western Pacific WHO Regions.

‘Nipah virus infection is a zoonotic illness that is transmitted to people from animals and can also be transmitted through contaminated food or directly from person to person. Among infected people, it causes a range of illnesses, from asymptomatic (subclinical) infection to acute respiratory illness and fatal encephalitis,’ WHO noted in its information bulletin.

· Fever and swelling of the brain, called encephalitis.

· Headache

· Breathing difficulties

· Cough and sore throat

· Diarrhoea

· Vomiting

· Muscle pain and severe weakness

· Disorientation and seizures, in extreme cases

Kerala government takes containment action

The state government has set up control rooms for surveillance in Kozhikode and contact tracing and affected districts have been put on high alert

Earlier in the day, State Health Minister Veena George who reached the affected districts, chaired a high-level meeting to evaluate the situation and said all precautionary steps are in place.

The State Health Department formed core committees for surveillance, sample testing and research management, contact tracing, and patient transportation management.

‘Following the deaths, surveillance procedure and contact tracking has been initiated. Hospitals and the health workers have been instructed to follow the infection control protocol, including wearing of PPE kits,’ said Ms George, while advising against unnecessary hospital visits.

Origin of the Nipah Virus

The name ‘Nipah’ comes from a Malaysian village where the first outbreak was reported in 1998-1999.

The virus emerges from fruit bats. It can spread to humans who have direct contact with infected animals or their body fluids.

In Malaysia, the source of the infection was nosocomial (originating in the hospital), the origin being pigs and bats, who had transmitted the virus to humans.

Consecutively, human-to-human infection is the cause of the spread of the infection through droplets.

Preventive Measures to take against the Nipah Virus

Avoiding close contact: Stay away from infected individuals, especially those showing symptoms, and avoid close contact with their bodily fluids.

Hygiene: Practicing good hand hygiene by frequently washing hands with soap and water can help reduce the risk of infection.

Quarantine measures: Rapidly identifying and isolating suspected cases can help prevent the virus from spreading within communities.

Awareness: Stay informed about outbreaks in your region and follow public health guidelines.

Protective gear: Healthcare workers should use appropriate personal protective equipment when caring for infected individuals.

Avoid fruit bats: The most obvious and highly unlikely scenario, one must avoid any contact with fruit bats or be careful in any environment that contains fruit bats.

Nipah virus is often transmitted through fruit bats. It is important to avoid contact with them and not consume fruits that may have been contaminated by bat saliva or bat urine.

Why are animal-to-human viruses becoming more frequent?

Zoonotic diseases – those that can be transmitted from animals to humans - have multiplied over the past 20 to 30 years, according to a Guardian report.

Industrial farming increases the risk of pathogens spreading between animals while deforestation heightens contact between wildlife, domestic animals and humans.

Scientists have warned that the climate crisis is increasing the risk of “zoonotic spillover” events, with 15000 instances of species-jumping predicted over the next 50 years.