After two ”unnatural deaths” were reported from Kozhikode district, the Kerala government has sent five samples to the National Institute of Virology in Pune to test for the presence of the deadly Nipah virus.
A district-wide health alert was issued on Monday after two deaths were reported, suspected to be due to Nipah virus infection.
The samples sent for testing to the virology institute includes that of one of the deceased and four of his kin.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the government was viewing the two deaths seriously and the health department had issued an alert in the district over the suspicion that Nipah virus had caused the deaths.
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He also said that there was no need to worry as most of those who were in close contact with the deceased were under treatment. Earlier in the day, State Health Minister Veena George reached the district and chaired a high-level meeting to evaluate the situation and told the media the government was taking all precautionary steps in case the results showed the presence of Nipah virus.
She informed that the contact tracing of the deceased persons has been initiated to identify high-risk contacts.
”At this moment, we have taken all the precautionary steps based on suspicion that the death may be due to Nipah virus. We have conducted preliminary tests here. But it can be confirmed only after the samples are tested at Pune NIV,” she said.
She also said the first death occurred at a private hospital and victim’s children, brother and his kin are also currently under treatment for fever.
The minister further said numerous persons visited the hospital and contact tracing had begun.
The Health department has instructed to set up an isolation centre at Kozhikode Medical College hospital and to increase human resources accordingly. Deaths due to Nipah virus infection were reported in Kozhikode district in 2018 and 2021.
The first Nipah virus outbreak in south India was reported from Kozhikode on May 19, 2018.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Nipah virus infection is a zoonotic illness that is transmitted to people from animals and can also be transmitted through contaminated food or directly from person-to-person.
Among infected people, it causes a range of illnesses, from asymptomatic (subclinical) infection to acute respiratory illness and fatal encephalitis.
The virus can also cause severe disease in animals such as pigs, resulting in significant economic losses for farmers, according to WHO.