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The 23-year-old studied in a college in Thodupuzha in Idukki and had stayed in Thrissur recently. According to Thrissur district medical officer, the student was in Thrissur only for four days and had been suffering from fever. Health officials have started inspecting all the areas where the student visited over the last few days. "Good care is being given to the patient. The patient sometimes becomes restless due to fever... We expect a good result," said KK Shailaja, news agency PTI reported.
"The centre will send monoclonal antibody (medicines) to Kerala. Everything that needs to be done in a scientific manner has been initiated. Nothing to panic," said Harsh Vardhan, adding he is in touch with the Kerala Health Minister. He said the wildlife department has been told to catch bats to test presence of the virus. The centre today sent a six-member team to Kerala.
The medicine, sourced from Australia after the Nipah outbreak last year, is available only with the National Institute of Virology. It was used as a preventive medicine for people who were exposed to the Hendra virus in Australia, which mainly infects large fruit bats (flying foxes) and can be passed on to livestock and people.
The source of the latest Nipah virus outbreak is not known, said KK Shailaja. "We have confidence that we can face it. We have faced it in Kozhikode last year and contained it," said Ms Shailaja.
"The news of confirmation should not be a cause for panic... Stringent action will be taken against those who spread misinformation," the office of Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan tweeted. "We are in constant contact with the Union ministry for Health. A team experts have arrived in Kochi. Their inputs will also inform the efforts to contain the outbreak. Together, we overcame the battle against Nipah in 2018. In this battle also, we are going to prevail," it said.
Nipah virus is transmitted from animals to humans and then spreads through people to people contact. It is associated with fatal encephalitis and respiratory illness. In initial stages, it causes fever, headache, muscle pain, dizziness and nausea. There is no known vaccine against the virus.
As precautionary measures, isolation wards have been set up in three districts - Ernakulam, Thrissur and Kozhikode. "We are prepared with all precautionary measures, especially because we have trained staff from the last outbreak in 2018," said Ms Shailaja.
According to the World Health Organisation, 18 Nipah cases were reported in Kerala last year; 17 of them died. The first death was reported on May 19, 2018. Since then, more than 2,600 contacts were identified and followed up with during the outbreak.
Multi-disciplinary teams - comprising members from the Health Ministry, animal husbandry department, National Centre for Disease Control, AIIMS, Safdarjung Hospital and the Indian Council of Medical Research - were sent to assist the Kerala government after the outbreak.
The last known outbreak in the subcontinent before Kerala last year was in 2004 in Bangladesh. The virus was first identified in 1999 during an outbreak affecting farmers and others in close contact with pigs in Malaysia and Singapore. More than 100 people died in that outbreak that year, and about a million pigs were killed to try to halt its spread.