A 39-year-old man in Kerala’s Kozhikode district, who had sought treatment at a private hospital where persons affected by Nipah virus were previously treated for other ailments, has tested positive for the virus, raising the total number of known Nipah infections in the southern state to six. The zoonotic virus, which is transmitted from animals to humans, has already killed two people in Kerala this year, the fourth outbreak since 2018.
Health Minister Veena George’s office said on Friday that the 39-year-old man was confirmed to have Nipah virus after his samples turned positive. He was in a hospital for observation.
The virus strain observed in the state was the Bangladesh variant, which originated five kilometers from the forest, spreads from person to person and has a high mortality rate, although it is less contagious, the government said.
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has sent monoclonal antibody, required to treat Nipah virus infection, to Kerala. The drug has yet to be clinically proven, but is the only available antiviral treatment for Nipah virus infection.
The National Institute of Virology and the Rajiv Gandhi Center for Biotechnology (RGCB) have sent mobile testing vans to Kozhikode. This will encourage testing.
There is also a central team in Kerala to monitor the situation.
People have been asked to avoid liquor collected in open barrels from palm trees.
A 24-year-old healthcare worker at a private hospital in Kozhikode was diagnosed with the virus yesterday.
There are 706 people on the contact list, of which 77 are in the high-risk category, while 153 are healthcare workers. No one in the high-risk category is currently showing symptoms, Kerala Health Minister Veena George said on Wednesday.
As many as 13 people are currently under observation in hospital and showing mild symptoms such as headaches, she said.
Ms George said the state was aiming for “proactive detection” of infection before cases were confirmed in laboratories. The health administration monitors clinical symptoms so that alerts can be issued in advance.
The state administration, Ms. George said, is focusing on early contact tracing of infected people and isolating those with symptoms.
There are no vaccines to prevent or cure the infection, which has a mortality rate of about 70 percent. The usual treatment consists of providing supportive care.
Infected people initially develop symptoms such as fever, shortness of breath, headache and vomiting, the World Health Organization (WHO) says. In severe cases, encephalitis and seizures may also occur, leading to coma.
In 2018, an outbreak in Kerala claimed 21 lives, while other outbreaks occurred in 2019 and 2021.