Kerala government urges calm after news that youngster might have Nipah virus

KOCHI: Central Kerala is in the grip of a Nipah scare after preliminary findings by the Virology Institute, Alappuzha raised the suspicion that a youngster, admitted in a private hospital with fever, might have contracted the deadly virus.

Speaking to reporters in Thiruvananthapuram, Health Minister KK Shylaja said that though the initial medical tests at the Virology Institute suggested a suspected case of Nipah, a final confirmation can only be made after the results from the National Virology Institute, Pune are received.

She urged people not to panic and said the government has taken all precautions to contain the spread of another possible outbreak.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, in a separate statement, said the government was closely monitoring the situation. “Kerala’s health network is capable of handling any emergencies. While we need to be cautious, there is no cause for panic. We have ramped up a series of measures to tackle the problem,” he said.

Officials said isolation wards have been created at three Medical Colleges in the state  – at the Ernakulam (Kalamassery), Thrissur and Kozhikode medical colleges.

The Health Minister, along with a 10-member team, has reached Ernakulam to monitor and assist the team from ground zero. A six-member medical team from Kozhikode, comprising three doctors and medical staffs, have also arrived at the Kalamassery Medical College Hospital.

The virus, which first broke out in Kozhikode and other nearby districts of Kerala in May 2018, had claimed 18 lives.

A 23-year-old man from Vadakkekara grama panchayat in Ernakulam district has been admitted to the isolation ward of the private hospital after he showed symptoms of Nipah. The youngster, who had gone for an internship at Keltron in Thrissur, returned home after he fell sick. The fever persisted for more than 10 days and some of the symptoms were similar to those caused by the Nipah virus. He is now being taken care of in an isolated ward of the private hospital.

Thrissur District Medical Officer KJ Reena said the youngster, a student of a self-financing engineering college in Thodupuzha, was running a fever when he reached Thrissur. She said the officers are monitoring all the 22 persons who came in contact with the Nipah-suspected patient while he was in Thrissur.

“As of now, there is no cause for concern. We got in touch with the six persons who are from Thrissur, and all are doing fine. The other 16 persons have gone back to their homes at other districts. We are checking if they have any symptoms too,” she said.

Sources at the Ernakulam district administration said no confirmation has been received from the labs yet. “Only after getting the report from the labs will we be able to comment. The information will be passed to the media either way,” said a top officer, who wished not to be named.

Meanwhile, the Ernakulam District Collector is conducting a meeting with the health officials to make precautionary arrangements if Nipah is confirmed.

“It’s true that an isolation ward has been set up at the Kalamassery Medical College. The meeting is mainly to discuss the arrangements,” he told Express.

Minister C Raveendranath, Ernakulam MP Hibi Eden and MLA S Sharma have also reached the hospital.



By Anuja Susan Varghese