Kerala to study population sample to figure out cause of repeated Nipah virus outbreaks

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Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has said that the state will conduct a seroprevalence study on the Nipah virus being repeatedly found in Kozhikode district.

According to WHO, population-based seroprevalence surveys are conducted to predict the proportion of infection and immunity in order to comprehend disease burden, a pattern of transmission, and associated risk factors.

The Chief Minister said that the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is not providing a clear answer to why the virus outbreak repeatedly happens in Kozhikode.

“So the state has decided to conduct a sero survey. Have asked the health department to prepare a detailed proposal for this,” CM Vijayan said in a media briefing in Thiruvananthapuram.

He further said that the state government is taking all measures to prevent the spread and ensure better treatment for those infected.

“It cannot be said that the Nipah threat has gone away. It is a relief that the disease has not spread to more people. The government is going ahead with effective measures to prevent the spread and ensure better treatment for those infected. The entire health system of the state is involved in this initiative with utmost caution,” he said.

The CM also added that scientific precautions have been taken to prevent the spread of Nipah in Kozhikode as well as neighbouring Kannur, Wayanad, and Malappuram districts.

“A more dangerous situation was avoided because it was detected early. As soon as the abnormal fever was noticed, the government intervened and coordinated preventive measures,” the CM said.

He said that a Nipah action plan was drawn up and a Nipah Core Committee comprising 19 teams was formed.

“Nipah control room is set up in government guest house, Kozhikode. A call centre was opened and linked to the ‘Disha’ service of the Health Department,” he added.

On the number of infected persons and contact list, the CM said, “1286 people are included in the contact list. 276 of them belong to the high-risk category. 122 of them are family members and relatives of the patients. 118 health workers are on the contact list. 994 people are under observation.”

The Chief Minister said that so far, samples of 304 people with symptoms of the disease have been collected. “Out of this, the test results of 267 people have come. The results of 6 people are positive,” he added.

Currently, 9 people are in isolation at Kozhikode Medical College Hospital, he said.

“We will also get the information of the study conducted. The research, which involves collecting samples without catching the bat, will be carried out with the help of the Institute of Virology,” CM Vijayan said.

Earlier on Monday, Health Minister Veena George said that no fresh cases of the Nipah virus were reported in the state as 61 samples taken of ‘high-risk’ contacts including healthcare workers tested negative.

She further said that the Nipah strain found in Kerala has been identified as the Indian Genotype, or I Genotype, which is similar to the strain found in Bangladesh.

Six cases of the Nipah virus have been so far found in the state of which two persons died while four others, including a nine-year-old boy, are under treatment. The health minister said that ICMR and WHO had conducted studies and found that Kerala and eight other states in India have the probability of Nipah occurrence.

Meanwhile, the district administration in Kozhikode has relaxed the restrictions in the district as no new cases of Nipah virus infection were reported in the state.

The district collector A Geetha informed that shops and establishments in the above containment zones can operate till 8 pm, while all banks can function till 2 pm as per the Nipah protocol. Masks and sanitisers must be used, social distancing must be followed and gatherings must be strictly controlled, the district collector said. As per the officials, other restrictions will continue till further order.

The District Collector also informed that those who are on the contact list and under observation should follow strict restrictions and remain in quarantine till the period prescribed by the Health Department.

A national sero survey was conducted by ICMR in 2021 to capture the extent of the spread of COVID-19 infection at the national level. The states also conducted sero surveys in various stages as advised by the Centre during the COVID-19 pandemic.