Teams from National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune would arrive in Kerala during the day to set up a mobile lab at Kozhikode Medical College to test for Nipah and carry out survey of bats, the state government said in the assembly on Wednesday.
The move comes in the wake of Nipah infection being confirmed in four persons in Kozhikode district of the state.
Responding to a query regarding the Nipah infection in the assembly, State Health Minister Veena George said that the virus strain seen in Kerala was the Bangladesh variant that spreads from human to human and has a high mortality rate, though it is less infectious.
George further said that besides the teams from NIV, Pune, a group of epidemiologists would reach Kerala today from Chennai to carry out a survey.
Additionally, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has agreed to fly down the monoclonal antibodies that are required to treat Nipah patients, she told the House.
The minister was responding to a query by CPI MLA P Balachandran during the Question-Answer hour regarding the measures taken to deal with the Nipah virus which has killed two and infected two others in Kozhikode.
George said surveillance, contact tracing, categorising them into low and high risk, setting up isolation facilities for them, demarcating containment zones and procuring medicines from ICMR for those infected, were some of the numerous steps taken by the Health department to prevent spread of the brain damaging virus.
During the subsequent House proceedings, Leader of Opposition in the assembly V D Satheesan and senior Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala highlighted the need for new treatment protocols with regard to Nipah.
Satheesan also said that the state was not able to declare the Nipah infection even after the Centre did so. Proper training to deal with the virus was not provided to more health workers and no data was being collected regarding the disease and its spread to counter it effectively in future.
Responding to these submissions, George said that the state has two labs — the Institute of Advanced Virology at Thonnakkal here and the Kozhikode Medical College — to test and confirm Nipah, but they do not have the permission to declare the same.
”That permission is only with NIV, Pune. We are taking steps to obtain permission to declare Nipah at the two labs here,” she said.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan extolled the Institute of Advanced Virology at Thonnakkal and its capabilities and said it would be examined why the samples were not sent there for testing.
George also said that the treatment protocols were first issued in 2018, during the Nipah outbreak then, and later it was improved upon in 2021 and that was being followed presently also.
”There have been no complaints about the protocols. They are formulated by medical and health experts. If any changes are required to be made to them, the same will be done,” she said.
The health minister also said that contact tracing and other measures to prevent spread of the infection was being carried out effectively.
Seven village panchayats — Atanchery, Maruthonkara, Tiruvallur, Kuttiyadi, Kayakkodi, Villyapalli, and Kavilumpara — in Kerala’s Kozhikode district have been declared as containment zones.
Soon after the Nipah virus infection was confirmed in Kozhikode district on Tuesday, Vijayan had urged people not to panic and to take precaution instead.
”Everyone should strictly follow the instructions of the health department and the police and fully cooperate with the restrictions,” he had said.
One of those infected with the virus was a nine-year-old boy.
The death of the first person, on August 30, was initially considered a death due to the comorbidity of liver cirrhosis, but his son, the nine-year-old boy who is already in ICU, and his 24-year-old brother-in-law are the two positive cases that were detected on Tuesday.