Kerala Nipah outbreak: Six patients quarantined after threat of infection test negative; condition of seventh remains stable

The samples of six people kept under watch after a college student was confirmed to have been infected by Nipah in Kerala have tested negative for the virus, authorities have said.  The results of the blood tests of the six have come as a huge relief for Kerala authorities trying to stop the spread of the highly infectious virus that had left 17 people dead in the state last year.

Authorities have scrambled to trace the source of the potentially deadly virus which resurfaced in the state a year after it struck two north Kerala districts, claiming 17 lives. The Kerala government had put a total of 314 people, including all those who recently came in contact with the Nipah patient, under observation.

State health minister KK Shailaja said that six of them, who tested negative, had direct contact with the Nipah-infected patient. "They have tested negative for Nipah. This indicates that the virus has not spread. It is a matter of big relief for us," the minister told reporters. Result of the sample of the seventh person is awaited, she said.

They are currently being treated at the isolation ward of the Government Medical College Hospital, Kalamassery, in Kochi.

A bulletin released on Wednesday night revealed that blood samples of these six people, who were put in an isolation ward of Kalamassery medical college hospital, were sent to the National Institute of Virology at Pune and a government lab in Alappuzha. The tests have reportedly come negative.

 Kerala Nipah outbreak: Six patients quarantined after threat of infection test negative; condition of seventh remains stable

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Earlier on Wednesday, state health minister KK Shailaja said the preliminary assessment of the health of five of them showed that they were not "in a severe condition." Another patient man was shifted to the isolation ward on Wednesday night.

Meanwhile, the one person who is being treated at a private hospital for Nipah virus is stable.

"The condition of the student is stable. It has not turned worse," Shailaja said, a day after the 23-year-old student was confirmed to be infected with the Nipah virus. An official in the private hospital where the student is being treated also said his condition was stable. "He is conscious. He is taking food," the official said.

One of the doctors who was part of the team treating the student explained: "He has a fever, but it has reduced. His brain involvement is affecting balance and memories, but has not turned into a fix or unconsciousness. So his brain involvement has not deteriorated. This is what we mean by saying the patient is stable. These are positive signs," he told Livemint.

A medical bulletin said there was enough stock of rebavirin medicine for treating the disease. Other medical equipment required for treatment have also been made available, it said.

"All situations in the state arising out of Nipah are under control," it said.

On Tuesday, the government prepared a list of 314 people, who had interacted with the student, and kept them under medical observation. According to the World Health Organisation, the
incubation period (interval from infection to the onset of symptoms) is believed to range from 4 to 14 days for the Nipah virus.

The minister said a review meeting chaired by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan will be held at district headquarters on Thursday. She said officials have launched efforts to trace the
source of the deadly virus. Tracing the source of the virus would be a difficult task, the minister said. Meanwhile, the Ernakulam district administration said schools in the district will be opened on Thursday after the two-month long vacation.

Precautionary measures have been taken to prevent the spread of the disease in the district, district collector Muhammed Y Safirulla said in a statement here. Meanwhile, the Kerala police warned that stringent action would be taken against those who spread false information through social media. The Kochi city police have registered cases against three people for allegedly spreading false news through social media, a senior police official said.

From North Paravur in Ernakulam, the 23-year-old is studying in a college in Thodupuzha in Idukki district. The student, who was suffering from fever, had gone to Thrissur district with a group of students to attend a training programme.

The government has urged people not to panic and take precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the disease. The administration has launched an awareness campaign through the media to meet the challenge.

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan had also spoken to Shailaja on Tuesday about the situation and assured all support from the Centre to the state. A control room has also been set up and the Strategic Health Operations Centre of the National Centre for Disease Control has been activated, phone number for which is 011-23978046, a health ministry statement said in New Delhi.

The Centre has deployed a six-member team comprising an epidemiologist to conduct contact tracing for early detection of suspects and review of isolation facilities. Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, who reviewed the public health measures put in place in Kerala on Wednesday, said the situation is under control and people need not panic.

During the review meeting, the Centre also discussed SOPs for quarantine of symptomatic contacts, sample collection or testing and dedicated isolation facility with trained health staff and epidemiological investigation by multi-disciplinary central team to ascertain the possible source of infection and history of exposure.

A designated control room has been established at the district collector's office and an isolation ward established at the Government Medical College Ernakulam, the Health Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

All healthcare facilities have been asked to ensure high index of suspicion in cases with similar symptoms and also ensure availability of isolation and emergency management facilities before referral, the ministry said.

The Nipah virus currently has no vaccine and has a mortality rate of 70 percent. According to state government figures, the Nipah virus had claimed 17 lives — 14 in Kozhikode and three in neighbouring Malappuram in May last year. However, Anup R Warrier, one of the doctors treating the Nipah-hit patient told Livemint that survival is possible despite being affected by Nipah. He cited the past four outbreaks in recent time where the mortality was between 40 and 80 percent. He said that whether or not a patient survives Nipah depends on three things, "One, is there a medicine against the specific pathogen? Second, when there is an organ involvement, how can we medically support that organ function? Suppose lungs deteriorate and need ventilator support. Third, the immune function of the patient is also very important."

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Jun 06, 2019 16:19:01 IST