New Delhi: The situation regarding the latest Nipah outbreak in Kerala is completely under control, and more than 200 samples from the high-risk contacts were tested negative, Kerala Health Minister Veena George said here on Monday (September 18). In an interview with PTI, the minister said so far 1,233 contacts have been traced and categorised into high-risk and low-risk contacts. “A very positive thing is that all four patients under treatment are now stable, and the condition of the nine-year-old boy, who was on ventilator support, is improving clinically. He is now out of ventilator support and is being given minimal oxygen support,” Minister George said.
A round-the-clock control room and 19 teams on the field have helped in the strict implementation of the protocol, bringing things under control, she said. The minister said,
So far, we have six positive cases, and all the samples tested for the last three days were negative.
The Central teams who have been working with the Kerala health department have expressed their appreciation for the work the department has done to effectively contain the outbreak. The minister further added,
They (the Central team members) sit in all discussions. Our team leaders will explain every day in the convergence meeting how a contact, which is very important, a very high-risk contact was identified. So the Central teams have really appreciated our work.
Three Central teams, one from ICMR, one from NIV, Pune, and one from the Epidemiological Institute, Chennai are in Kerala.
They had earlier visited the containment zones and Nipah epicentre in 2018 and have also conducted bat surveillance.
The system responded very well as per the protocol and guidelines, which were twice modified in 2021 and then in 2023, in the treatment and containment of Nipah, the minister said. The minister said,
Primarily, we are giving antiviral medicines like Remdesivir. The dosages for infants and adults are all well written. The protocol is being followed by both government and private hospitals.
Understanding the vulnerability of Kozhikode to the disease outbreak, a strict protocol has been followed since 2018. The minister said,
We have set up a testing lab at the Medical College, Kozhikode. In August this year, we tested 35 samples for the Nipah virus. This year, hundreds of samples were tested. If anyone has encephalitis, then that sample will be sent for testing for Nipah.
The system has always been on high alert, and a diagnosis protocol was ready. Many studies have been conducted in Kozhikode from 2018 onwards including bat surveillance, she said. She further added,
We are on constant alert, constant vigil, that will continue, and integration of some departments, like we have developed a “one health programme” in Kerala based on our experiences on Nipah. Because this is an era of zoonotic diseases, we cannot stay away from the concept of “one health” and it is only the state of Kerala that has developed that concept. One health” is a programme launched by the state health department where all the concerned departments will get a platform for convergence in fighting against infectious diseases outbreak.
The minister said for better convergence of departments in case of any infectious disease outbreak, the government is planning to set up a One Health Institute in Kozhikode.
Asked about restrictions for anyone visiting Kerala or Kozhikode, she said there is no travel ban.
See, we have a protocol; according to our guidelines, when a Nipah case is reported, the area within the five-kilometre radius is declared as a containment zone. There is movement restriction only in that particular area.
Earlier on Sunday, Union Health Minister Dr Mansukh Mandaviya and the Kerala government held a meeting regarding Nipah virus surveillance to improve the current situation. According to sources, at this meeting, the central team provided technical suggestions on surveillance, IEC material, testing, and contact tracing. The sources said,
Therapeutic monoclonal antibody shots were offered to the state government for treatment of critical Nipah virus cases. As reviewed on September 17, 2023 by the Union Health Minister and Kerala government, it is unlikely to use Monoclonal Antibodies as eligible patients may not be available.
The Central teams (ICMR-National Institute of Virology, Pune; Doctors from Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital (RML Hospital), Delhi; National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Delhi; and National Institute of Epidemiology (NIE), Chennai) have been coordinating with state and district health authorities in outbreak investigation and containment measures.
The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is in regular contact with the State and District Authorities and continues to monitor the situation.
The first confirmation of the Nipah virus outbreak was reported on September 11, and six confirmed cases have been reported.
A total of 1,233 contacts have been traced, of which 352 have been classified as ‘high risk’ contacts that includes 129 healthcare workers, and 142 samples have been collected so far for testing as per the directions given by the government of India.
Earlier, Union Health Minister Dr Mansukh Mandaviya on Sunday said that several cases of Nipah have been found in Kerala and that the world’s first Biosafety level 3 (BSL-3) lab is assisting the testing of the virus in the state.
While speaking to the media, the Health Minister said, “Several cases of Nipah have been found in Kerala. the Centre has sent a team immediately to investigate it. The world’s first Biosafety level 3 (BSL-3) lab will assist with the testing in Kerala. BSL-3 is arranged inside a bus. An expert team is also present in Kerala and is prepared to deal with any kind of situation.”
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