Samples of six people, including three nurses and a nursing assistant, who had attended on a college student infected with Nipah virus have tested negative and indicate the virus has not spread, Kerala Health Minister K K Shailaja said Thursday.
The results of the blood tests of the six have come as a huge relief for Kerala authorities trying to stop the spread of the highly infectious virus that had left 17 people dead in the state last year. The condition of the college student, diagnosed with Nipah infection, is stable and a total of 314 persons who were in touch with the infected person have been kept under observation, a Union Health Ministry official said in New Delhi.
Shailaja said the six of them, who tested negative, had direct contact with the Nipah-infected patient. "They have tested negative for Nipah. This indicates that the virus has not spread. It is a matter of big relief for us," the minister told reporters here. Result of the sample of the seventh person is awaited, she said. They are currently being treated at the isolation ward of the Government Medical College Hospital, Kalamassery, here.
The samples were tested at the National Institute of Virology in Pune. A total of 314 people from various districts are under observation, a government bulletin had said Wednesday. Of the 314, seven people had been shifted to the isolation ward of a medical college hospital. The Union Health Ministry has deployed a six-member team comprising an epidemiologist to conduct contact tracing for early detection of suspects and review of isolation facilities.
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, who reviewed the public health measures put in place in Kerala on Wednesday, said the situation is under control and people need not panic. During the review meeting, the Centre also discussed SOPs for quarantine of symptomatic contacts, sample collection or testing and dedicated isolation facility with trained health staff and epidemiological investigation by multi-disciplinary central team to ascertain the possible source of infection and history of exposure.
A designated control room has been established at the district collector's office and an isolation ward established at the Government Medical College Ernakulam, the Health Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday. Isolation facilities have also been ensured at medical colleges at Calicut, Thrissur and Kottayam, it said.
All healthcare facilities have been asked to ensure high index of suspicion in cases with similar symptoms and also ensure availability of isolation and emergency management facilities before referral, the ministry said. According to the World Health Organisation, Nipah virus is a newly emerging disease that can be transmitted from its reservoir (natural wildlife host), the flying foxes (fruit bats), to both animals and humans.
Symptoms range from asymptomatic infection, acute respiratory infection and encephalitis. Infected people initially develop influenza-like symptoms of fever, headache, vomiting and sore throat. This can be followed by dizziness, drowsiness, altered consciousness, and neurological signs that indicate acute encephalitis.