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No new positive case of Nipah a big relief; situation under control, says Kerala govt

State Health Minister Veena George said it was a big relief for the state that no new fresh positive cases of the virus have been detected.

No new positive case of Nipah a big relief; situation under control, says Kerala govt

People wear masks at a medical college after the Nipah virus alert in Kozhikode. (PTI) 

KOZHIKODE: The Kerala government on Sunday said the Nipah outbreak in the state is under control as there were no new positive cases for the second consecutive day and that the already infected patients were getting better.

State Health Minister Veena George said it was a big relief for the state that no new fresh positive cases of the virus have been detected.

"The situation is under control presently," she said.

The minister was speaking to reporters here in the evening after a review of the Nipah situation in this north Kerala district of the state.

George said the four infected persons, including a nine-year-old boy, were getting better and the child has been taken off ventilator for the time being.

Regarding the treatment using a monoclonal antibody, the only experimental therapeutic available to the government against the virus, the minister said the present variant was only 50-60 per cent effective and that the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has assured that it will get a new and more efficient version.

She also said that samples from 36 bats have been taken and sent to the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune to ascertain the presence of the virus among the mammals.

George further said that since all the infected persons got the virus from the same person -- the index case -- who died on August 30, it was clear that there was no second wave and that it was welcome news.

"It can also be proved through genomic sequencing which is being carried out," she said.

So far, 1,233 contacts have been traced and of them 352 are in the high-risk category, she said.

Earlier in the day, the minister said that as no new positive Nipah cases were being reported, the containment and quarantine measures would remain in place for 42 days from the last positive case reported.

The incubation period of the virus is 21 days and therefore, "a double incubation period of 42 days from the last positive case" is considered as the period during which caution has to be exercised, George explained

In the morning, she also said that a central team was surveying the area of the 2018 Nipah outbreak and will look for any ecological changes there, while teams from NIV Pune and ICMR are also carrying out field surveys in the district.

State Tourism Minister P A Mohamed Riyas, who was also part of the press briefing, said that people were cooperating very well with the government's containment and quarantine efforts.

George, in a statement, also said that the state was well equipped to carry out Nipah testing and can also confirm the presence of the virus through the tests.

The mobile labs of Rajiv Gandhi Center for Biotechnology and NIV Pune have also helped to expedite testing and strengthen preventive measures, she said.

Giving details of the testing process, the minister said the procedure is complicated due to the dangerous nature of the virus.

At the same time, persons infected with Nipah do not show symptoms in the initial stages, which is a challenge as early testing is critical to increase the chances of survival and prevent the spread of the disease.

Real-time polymerase chain reaction (RTPCR) or PCR tests are used to detect the Nipah virus, she said.

Meanwhile, the state government has launched a special out patient department (OPD) service in connection with Nipah under its e-Sanjeevini telemedicine system, Kozhikode District Collector A Geetha had said in a Facebook post.

In her post, Geetha also advised people against frightening bats by throwing stones at them or making loud noises by bursting firecrackers, setting fire to their roots and cutting down trees they inhabit.

The Collector said that when bats infected with Nipah are harmed, frightened or moved from their habitat, the level of the virus in their body increases due to stress.

As a result, the viruses will be expelled through body fluids and this will increase the risk of spread of the infection, she said.

The total number of cases of Nipah infection confirmed in the state are six, of which two persons have died and four persons are being treated.

The World Health Organisation and ICMR studies have found that the entire state, not just Kozhikode, is prone to such infections.

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