On Sunday, the Kerala state government declared that it has the Nipah outbreak under control as there have been no new positive cases for two consecutive days, and the patients already infected are displaying signs of improvement.
State Health Minister Veena George expressed relief that there have been no recent cases of the virus detected and stated, “The current situation is under control.” She made these remarks during a press briefing after evaluating the Nipah situation in a district in North Kerala.
George reported that all four individuals who were infected, including a nine-year-old boy, are improving, and the child has been taken off the ventilator temporarily.
Regarding the use of monoclonal antibody treatment, the only experimental therapy available for the virus, the minister noted that the current variant is only 50-60 percent effective. However, she reassured that the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has promised a more efficient version soon.
George also mentioned that samples from 36 bats have been collected and sent to the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune to determine if the virus is present in these mammals.
She further explained that since all infected individuals contracted the virus from the same person (the index case) who died on August 30, there is no second wave of the outbreak, which is good news. George added that genomic sequencing is underway to confirm this.
So far, 1,233 contacts have been identified, with 352 of them categorized as high-risk individuals, according to George.
Earlier in the day, the minister announced that containment and quarantine measures would continue for 42 days from the last reported positive case, given the absence of new Nipah cases.
George also mentioned that a central team is examining the area of the 2018 Nipah outbreak to evaluate any ecological changes. Teams from NIV Pune and ICMR are also conducting field surveys in the district.
State Tourism Minister P A Mohamed Riyas, who participated in the press briefing, commended the public for their cooperation with the government’s containment and quarantine efforts.
George emphasized that the state is well-equipped to conduct Nipah testing and confirm the presence of the virus. Mobile labs from the Rajiv Gandhi Center for Biotechnology and NIV Pune have expedited testing and bolstered preventive measures.
She described the testing process as intricate due to the virus’s hazardous nature. Early testing is crucial since individuals infected with Nipah do not exhibit symptoms in the initial stages.
Real-time polymerase chain reaction (RTPCR) or PCR tests are utilized to detect the Nipah virus.
Additionally, the state government has introduced a specialized outpatient department (OPD) service for Nipah under its e-Sanjeevini telemedicine system, according to Kozhikode District Collector A Geetha.
Geetha cautioned against harming or distressing bats, as this could elevate stress levels and increase the risk of virus transmission. She emphasized that the entire state, not just Kozhikode, is susceptible to such infections, as indicated by studies conducted by the World Health Organization and ICMR.