In a recent development, the Kerala government has heightened its efforts to curb the spread of the Nipah virus in the state. Officials revealed in an assembly session that the Nipah virus responsible for causing severe brain damage and claiming the lives of two out of the four infected individuals was a variant originating from Bangladesh. While this variant boasts a high mortality rate, it is fortunately less infectious compared to other strains.
Kerala's Health Minister, Veena George, confirmed that the recent "unnatural deaths" in Kozhikode district were indeed a result of the Nipah virus. One fatality occurred this month, with the other reported on August 30th.
This marks the fourth occurrence of a Nipah outbreak in Kerala since 2018. During the initial outbreak in 2018, Kerala reported 23 cases, resulting in a tragic death toll of 21. Subsequent outbreaks in 2019 and 2021 claimed two more lives. Unfortunately, there are currently no specific treatments or vaccines available for the Nipah virus. It is primarily transmitted to humans through direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected bats, pigs, or other individuals. The virus made its first appearance in 1999 during an outbreak among pig farmers and those in close contact with pigs in Malaysia and Singapore.
Here are the latest updates on the situation in Kerala:
Teams from Pune's National Institute of Virology (NIV) are set to arrive in Kerala to establish a mobile lab at Kozhikode Medical College. This lab will be dedicated to testing for the Nipah virus and conducting a survey of bats in the region.
A group of epidemiologists from Chennai will also be joining efforts in Kerala to conduct a comprehensive survey.
Health Minister George announced a series of measures to address the health crisis, including surveillance, contact tracing, categorizing individuals into low and high-risk groups, establishing isolation facilities, marking containment zones, and procuring medicines from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for infected individuals.
Kozhikode administration has declared seven village panchayats (local administrative bodies) as containment zones to restrict movement and prevent the spread of the virus.
An alert has been issued for the neighboring districts of Kannur, Wayanad, and Malappuram.
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has agreed to send monoclonal antibodies, a crucial treatment component for Nipah virus patients.
Residents in containment areas have been urged to follow safety measures, including mask-wearing, sanitizing, and practicing social distancing.
Restrictions on movement in and out of containment zones have been enforced by the police.
Essential and medical stores within containment zones are permitted to operate between 7 am and 5 pm. Pharmacies and health centers can function without time restrictions.
Local government institutions and village offices will operate with minimal staff, while banks, government offices, educational institutions, and childcare centers will remain closed within containment zones. Officials encourage people to utilize online services and minimize outdoor activities.
Vehicles traveling along national highways are advised not to stop within containment areas.
The Central government has dispatched a team of health experts to Kerala to provide guidance and support. Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya emphasized the need for precautions, as the virus is spread by bats.
Kerala's Chief Minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, has called on the public to strictly adhere to the instructions issued by the health department and cooperate fully with the imposed restrictions to combat the Nipah virus outbreak.