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Relief for Authorities as Six Patients Under Watch for Nipah Virus in Kerala Test Negative

Relief for Authorities as Six Patients Under Watch for Nipah Virus in Kerala Test Negative

State Health Minister KK Shailaja had said that a total of 311 people from various districts are under observation

Kochi: 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 indicated the virus has not spread, Kerala Health Minister KK Shailaja said on 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.

Indicating that the spread of the potentially deadly virus among humans in the state has somehow been controlled, the government said a major concern related to the Nipah scare in the state was allayed.

The Health Department, however, will continue to maintain vigil for some time.

The government also urged the people to continue to take precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the disease.

"A major concern was allayed. But we will continue to remain alert," a visibly relaxed Shailaja said here as she announced the results of blood tests from the National Institute of Virology, Pune.

The condition of the 23-year-old college student, diagnosed with Nipah infection, is stable, the minister said.

The minister 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 in a big proportion. It is a matter of big relief for us,"she said.

She, however, said they will continue to be under observation for some time.

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.

One more person has been shifted to the isolation this afternoon. His blood samples will also be sent for examination, the minister said. The samples were tested at the National Institute of Virology in Pune.

Talking to reporters after attending the review meeting chaired by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan this afternoon, Shailaja said 316 persons, who were in touch with the infected person, have been kept under observation.

State Health Principal Secretary Dr Rajan N Khobragade said out of 316 people, 33 persons have been put in the high risk category.

"We have contacted total 316 people. Out of this, total data has been collected in 255. Out of 255, risk analysis is completed in 224. Of this, 33 persons might have spent 12 hours with the infected student. Therefore, they are vulnerable. They are at high risk. Rest 191 persons are at low risk. Data of 61 people are being collected," he said.

Of the 316, eight people had been shifted to the isolation ward of the Kalamassery medical college hospital.

Vijayan said the government will continue to take steps to completely free the state from the Nipah threat.

He sought scientific research by scientists from the Centre and the state government institutions to trace the source of the disease. Fruit bats are the natural host of Nipah virus, he said.

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 Wednesday, said in New Delhi that 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 Tuesday.

Isolation facilities have also been ensured at medical colleges at Calicut, Thrissur and Kottayam, it said.

All health care 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 Organization, Nipah virus is a newly emerging disease that can be transmitted from its reservoir (natural wildlife host), 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.