As the dangerous Nipah virus is spreading out of proportion in Kerala's Kozhikode district, experts are calling for restriction of movement of people, especially those in the affected area. They also warn that the sudden flow of people to government medical college in Kozhikode fearing Nipah virus infection would only worsen the situation. The death toll has already touched 16, including a nurse, who treated the affected patients.
Kerala Health Minister K.K. Shylaja and Labour and Excise Minister T.P. Ramakrishnan attended a high-level meeting of experts at the Government Medical College in Kozhikode, amid criticism that the Kerala government failed to take effective measures, even after sudden loss of lives. District collector U.V. Jose and medical college principal Dr V.R. Rajendran attended.
A 24-hour control room has been opened at District Medical Office, Kozhikode. 24-hour control room number: 0495 2376063
Those who contracted the Nipah virus infection in the first level have died and those who contracted the virus from them, i.e., the second-level cases, have either died or have manifested the disease. These second-level cases are either close relatives or people who nursed them.
The spread of Nipah virus disease in the third level could be more devastating, if proper care is not taken.
Experts also cite the example of the spread of disease in comparatively lesser populated areas and warn that the result in a densely populated state like Kerala could be catastrophic. They also warn not to generalise all fever cases during this season as a result of Nipah virus, as the symptoms could be similar to that of dengue and other serious illness.
Community medicine expert and additional professor at Government Medical College, Manjeri, Dr T. Jayakrishnan pointed out that isolated wards at the taluks could help a lot in confining the affected patients to a particular area, rather than sending all to the medical college.
“Nipah virus reached India in 2001. That time, it was confined to Nadia, Siliguri district, in West Bengal. The chances of spreading is comparatively less, as it is believed to have been spread through bats. However, we need to find out what exactly caused the disease here. Bats are mostly seen in the kaavu (sacred grove) and we are also not sure, if the same variety of bats caused the disease here,” Dr Jayakrishnan said.
“In case if one contracts the disease from the bats, human-to-human transmission is possible through secretion, if someone is in close contact with the patient. For example, relatives and the doctors/nurses. Another risk is for people who handle their dead bodies. Third risk category comprises those using the same products used by the patient, like clothes or utensils. It is to be noted that this disease does not spread through air, water, food or mosquito,” he added.
Immediate precautions for those living in the Nipah virus affected areas
For a minimum of two weeks, the people in the affected area, should refrain from making any contact with the patients or the deceased. Avoid traveling far, if you experience any symptoms like fever, loss of consciousness. Government should take steps to arrange separate treatment for Nipah-suspected patients at the health centres itself.
Symptoms to be noted
Fever with headache, vomiting, dizziness.
Age no bar
Normally, age is not a factor in contracting the disease, though adults contract it more as they are more exposed to the patients, compared to children.
Use mask and gloves while nursing the patient or dealing with dead bodies. Clean yourself in treated water after any contact with them. Differentiate the symptoms of the fever and treat separately, for example, dengue.