Kerala Health Minister KK Shailaja on Tuesday confirmed that a 23-year-old college student admitted at a private hospital in Ernakulam has tested positive for the Nipah infection after the National Institute of Virology in Pune, Maharashtra tested his serum samples, PTI reported.
The man is from North Paravur in Ernakulam district and is a student at a technical institute in Thodupuzha in Idukki district. He had moved to Thrissur for a training programme and was hospitalised with fever. Shailaja said the condition of the student is stable. “Good care is being given to the patient,” she said. “The patient sometimes become restless due to fever...We expect a good result.”
A total of 86 people, including four of his roommates in Thodupuzha, family members in Ernakulam and those who he worked with him in Thrissur, are under observation. Of these 86 people, two are suffering from fever and one has been shifted to the isolation ward set up at the Kalamassery Medical College Hospital.
Shailaja said the priority right now was to prevent the spreading of the infection. Finding the source of the virus will be done in the second stage, she said.
Nipah is a virus that can be transferred from animals to humans. It causes fever and cold-like symptoms in patients before quickly advancing to encephalitis, which is inflammation of the brain, and myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart. There is no vaccine or cure for Nipah infections at present. An outbreak of the virus in Kerala in May 2018 had claimed 17 lives.
An expert team of doctors, including those who helped fight the the virus last year in Kozhikode, are in Kochi to monitor the situation. Isolation wards and fever clinics have been opened at the Medical College in Ernakulam district.
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said he was in touch with Shailaja. “The Centre will send monoclonal antibody [medicines] to Kerala,” he said. A team from NIV to test bats for Nipah virus will also be sent on Tuesday. The minister said the wildlife department has been directed to catch bats to test them for the virus. The Centre has also set up a control room.
A six-member team set up by the Union health ministry is expected to arrive in Kerala on Tuesday to assess the situation on ground and assist state experts in disease preparedness. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday assured people that the government was taking all necessary precautions.