Even as Nipah virus death toll in Kerala reached 13 with the death of a 62-year-old woman, who was under treatment at the Kozhikode Medical College hospital, various state governments have issued directives and advisories. Government agencies from different sates have urged people to take immediate measures in case they experience symptoms of the virus, and refrain from travelling to Kerala.
Nipah virus symptoms are not specific and include flu-like illness and hence can be confused with any respiratory illness.
Nipah was first detected in Malaysia in 1998, followed by Bangladesh in 2001 and annual outbreaks have occurred in that country since, with the disease also occurring periodically in eastern India, making it the third country.
The fourth country reporting Nipah virus infection is the Philippines.
The natural host of the virus are fruit bats. Human infections can result from contacts with infected pigs. Humans become infected with Nipah as a result of consuming food products contaminated by secretions of infected fruit bats.
In some cases human-to-human transmission has also been documented.
A majority of the deaths have been reported from Kozhikode in Kerala, while the others from nearby Malappuram district.
K Shankar, director, Institute of Preventive Medicine (IPM) said that people should postpone their plans to visit Kerala in view of the situation there. He said people should avoid visiting affected areas.
Officials of Medical and Health Department also said that they were advising people not to visit Kerala at least till the situation comes under control.
The authorities are conducting campaigns in residential colonies to create awareness among people about Nipah virus and also to advise them against visiting Kerala.
They were also screening people at airport, railway and bus stations for suspected symptoms of the dreaded virus.
The Sikkim health department has issued an advisory urging the people of the state to take precaution against Nipah virus.
“Though there is minimal possibility of Nipah virus in Sikkim, but the people need to take precaution,” it said in an advisory in the wake of Nipah outbreak in Kerala.
The symptoms of the virus include fever, headache, vomiting and fainting. Some may show symptoms of epilepsy. The symptoms may last 10-12 days followed by unconsciousness and death as a result of brain fever, the advisory said.
It is advised to the people that they should not eat fruits and vegetables bitten by birds, bats and animals, wash their hands properly after contacting infected person and monitor fever cases with history of travel to the affected areas i.e. Kerala.
The Bihar government issued Nipah virus alert, asking people to take precautions, an official said.
“The government has issued an alert of Nipah virus (NiV) in view of its outbreak in Kerala that has claimed 10 lives and created panic,” said health department official RD Ranjan.
An advisory has also been issued to people with the dos and don’ts as preventive measures, said Ranjan.
“People have been advised to keep distance from bats and pigs. They have been asked not to consume fruits without washing them.”
According to health experts, Nipah symptoms are not specific and include flu-like illness and hence can be confused with any respiratory illness.
The natural host of the virus are fruit bats. Human infections can result from contacts with infected pigs.
In the wake of the outbreak of Nipah virus in Kerala which claimed many lives, Madhya Pradesh Health Ministry also issued an advisory.
Health Services Director BN Chouhan, however, said there was no reason to worry as the virus is generally limited to a place.
He advised against eating fruits that are fallen on the ground or appear to have animal teeth or claw marks. “People should avoid going to areas that might have bats. Stay away from suspected infected persons.”
Those living in areas with a bat population or where travellers from Kerala are staying should contact the nearest government hospital if any symptoms of Nipah are found.
According to Chouhan, Nipah virus spreads to humans after direct contact with infected bats or pigs. Its symptoms are headaches, fever, bodyache, cough, problems in breathing, vomiting, diarrhoea, laziness and others.
UAE issues Kerala travel warning
The UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention (Mohap) has asked people to put off unnecessary travel to Kerala where a Nipah virus (NiV) outbreak has claimed lives of at least 12 people.
“The Mohap alerts the people travelling to Kerala to be aware of contracting the infection and advises them to postpone unnecessary travel till the situation is controlled,” the Khaleej Times quoted a Ministry statement.
“The Ministry works with its strategic partners to assess the risk of importation of Nipah cases to the country and put the necessary control measures. Also, Mohap is in continuous coordination with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to implement the global recommendations,” it added.
Dubai-based Emirates airlines said that they were monitoring the situation closely.
“With regards to preventive or other measures, we will take guidance from the WHO and other international bodies. At this time, there are no recommended actions for airlines,” it said.
The WHO has not issued any specific advice to countries that have not been affected by the Nipah but has asked them to enhance the level of preparedness.
Among the advisories given, the world body has advised countries to enhance surveillance at healthcare facilities including at points of entry and give case definitions among healthcare workers.
Tests in the National Institute of Virology in Pune have ruled out that the dead bats found dead in Himachal Pradesh’s Sirmaur district were carrying the Nipah virus. The institute said the bats died of some other reason.
Panic spread as several bats were found dead at Government Senior Secondary School in Barmapapri this week.
Samples from dead bats in Sirmaur were collected and sent to the National Institute of Virology for testing and all the samples were reported negative for the Nipah virus, according to an official statement quoting Additional Chief Secretary BK Agarwal.