Nipah virus claims 12-yr-old in Kerala’s Kozhikode

Thiruvananthapuram: A 12-year-old boy, who was detected with Nipah virus disease, died in the early hours of Sunday. The boy was from Kozhikode and he breathed his last at a private hospital. The boy had recently recovered from Covid and was taken to the hospital after the fever did not subside. He was reportedly admitted at the Kozhikode Medical College and later shifted to the private hospital on September 1.

The Union Health Ministry has deputed a team of doctors and other specialists to conduct a detailed study on the disease and the surroundings. The team is expected to reach Kozhikode on Sunday morning. Northern Kerala, including Malappuram, Kozhikode, and Kannur districts, are on high alert.

“There is no need to panic, the government has put the health system in place. Three-body fluid samples taken from the boy were tested positive from the National Virology Lab, Pune. No one from his immediate family or neighbourhood has shown any symptoms and no need to panic,” said State Health Minister Veena George.

According to sources, the health department has put five immediate relatives of the deceased boy, and 12 others who have interacted with him, under observation.

The health minister convened a virtual meeting on Saturday night with doctors and other health department officials and arrangements have been put in place for a special Nipah ward at Kozhikode Medical College Hospital.

State works minister P.A. Mohammed Riyas and Transport Minister A.K. Saseendran are in Kozhikode to coordinate the activities of the department, and the health minister is expected to reach the city on Sunday morning.

It may be noted that there was a Nipah outbreak in Kozhikode and Malappuram districts of Kerala in 2018. On May 2, 2018, the Nipah virus was first detected in a person at Perambra hospital in Kozhikode district and was later shifted to the Kozhikode Medical College where he passed away. The outbreak led to 17 deaths and it was finally declared as contained on June 10, 2018.

What is Nipah Virus?

Nipah virus (NiV) is a zoonotic virus, which is transmitted from animals to humans. It can also be transmitted through contaminated food or directly between people. In infected people, it causes a range of illnesses from asymptomatic (subclinical) infection to acute respiratory illness and fatal encephalitis. The virus can also cause severe disease in animals such as pigs, resulting in significant economic losses for farmers.

What are its signs and symptoms?

Human infections range from asymptomatic infection to acute respiratory infection (mild, severe), and fatal encephalitis. People initially develop symptoms including fever, headaches, myalgia (muscle pain), vomiting and sore throat. This can be followed by dizziness, drowsiness, altered consciousness, and neurological signs that indicate acute encephalitis. Some people can also experience atypical pneumonia and severe respiratory problems, including acute respiratory distress. Encephalitis and seizures occur in severe cases, progressing to coma within 24 to 48 hours.

The incubation period (interval from infection to the onset of symptoms) is believed to range from 4 to 14 days.

Fatality rate:

The case fatality rate is estimated at 40% to 75%. This rate can vary by outbreak depending on local capabilities for epidemiological surveillance and clinical management.

Treatment:

There are currently no drugs or vaccines specific for Nipah virus infection although WHO has identified Nipah as a priority disease for the WHO Research and Development Blueprint. Intensive supportive care is recommended to treat severe respiratory and neurologic complications.

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