Nipah outbreak: 1,192 people in contact list; Kerala on high alert

Residents fix a sign reading 'Nipah containment zone' on a barricade, put up to block a road after the authorities declared the area a containment zone, to prevent the spread of Nipah virus at Ayanchery village in Kozhikode. Photo: Reuters

Kozhikode: The health department has ramped up vigil against the Nipah virus outbreak across Kerala as more people are expected to be added to the patients' contact list.

As of Saturday, 1,192 people are on the list. The health department traced 97 persons in the contact list on Saturday. Though no fresh positive cases were reported, test results of 51 samples are expected to be out soon, said  Health Minister Veena George.

She added that the health department has intensified measures to contain the virus spread. House surveillance was conducted in 22,208 homes in containment zones to date, she pointed out.

The minister also said five more persons, who had come in contact with the infected persons, were admitted to the hospital after showing symptoms of Nipah infection.

Health workers wait to admit patients at a Nipah isolation ward at the Medical College, in Kozhikode. Photo: PTI

"Their samples have also been sent for testing," she said.

At present, six cases of Nipah infection have been confirmed in the state. There are four active cases as two have already died of infection.

Earlier on Saturday, the minister stated that with the identification of the patient zero or index case of the Nipah virus outbreak in Kerala, the state government has begun looking for the source and place from where he got infected by seeking details of his mobile tower locations.

She said that while the state government was trying to determine where and how the man got infected, the central team was collecting bat samples to ascertain the viral load.

She also claimed the central team appreciated the state's efforts to combat the virus outbreak.

Everyone, including a nine-year-old boy on a ventilator, who is under treatment for the virus or is in isolation, is stable, she said.

The minister had also said that all those infected are part of the first wave of the infection which has manifested in two clusters -- one being the two family members of the man who was the index case and the second being the persons who came into contact with him at the hospital he went for treatment.

Regarding the monoclonal antibody, the only viable therapeutic against the virus, the minister said in the morning that according to the Centre it was 50-60 per cent stable and it has asked the state government to explore the possibility of getting a new version of the antibody.

"Presently, according to the doctors, the patients under treatment do not require it," she had said.

However, the state requested the Centre's support for expediting the process required for importing the monoclonal antibody and the same was assured.

"So, as of now, there is no secondary wave. That is welcome news," she said at the press briefing which was also attended by State Tourism Minister P A Mohamed Riyas.

Meanwhile, Kozhikode Mayor Beena Philip said all the wards where the man, who was the index case, went have been declared as containment zones.

"He has moved around a lot. Therefore, the contact list is expected to get bigger," she said.

Kozhikode District Collector A Geetha said that arrangements have been made for online classes in educational institutions for the coming week and instructed students not to engage in holiday-related celebrations.

The Collector also said that Beypore harbour will remain closed till further orders as it falls in one of the containment zones and provided two alternative locations for landing fishing vessels and sale of the catch.

The Centre on Friday decided to procure from Australia 20 more doses of monoclonal antibody through the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for treatment of those infected by Nipah.

The ICMR's National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune had sent its mobile BSL-3 (Biosafety Level-3) laboratory to Kozhikode to test the samples for the virus in the district.

This is the fourth time the viral infection has been confirmed in the state. It was detected in Kozhikode in 2018 and 2021 and in Ernakulam in 2019.

The World Health Organisation and ICMR studies have found that the entire state, not just Kozhikode, is prone to such infections.

(with PTI inputs)

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