The Health Minister of Kerala, KK Shylaja has said that the 23-year-old college student admitted to a private hospital in Ernakulam is suspected to have contracted the Nipah virus. But a final confirmation is awaited from the National Institute of Virology in Pune.
The news has triggered panic in the state, where the virus — which has a mortality rate of 70% and has no vaccine and can spread through human-to-human transmission — claimed 17 lives last year, including a nurse who treated one of the patients.
“In the backdrop of the learning we got last year, we are always aware. Even before this case of the patient, when we had patients with similar symptoms, we have sent their specimens for confirmation from labs…we have initiated all arrangements for isolation wards at the Ernakulam Medical College in case a confirmation for Nipah is received. We have contacted all medical facilities on the periphery,” the health minister told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram.
According to the World Health Organisation, a total of 18 Nipah cases were reported in Kerala last year and 17 people died. Fourteen people had died in Kozhikode and three had died in neighbouring Malappuram in May last year.