By Matters India Reporter
Kochi, July 23, 2019: Kerala’s Health Minister K K Shailja on July 23 declared Ernakulam district Nipah-free as a youth fully recovered from the disease and left the hospital.
“It is a successful culmination of the joint operation of government and private sector,” the minister told reporters after meeting the 23-year-old Nipah survivor at Aster Medcity, a leading hospital in Kochi, Kerala’s commercial capital.
With this, the southern Indian state successfully controlled the second outbreak of Nipah virus.
“The preventive measures were successful with the support of government mechanism and cooperation of private sector. People around the globe have been appreciating Kerala’s health system after controlling Nipah outbreak,” the minister claimed.
District collector S Suhas and Aster Medcity chairman Dr Azad Moopen attended the official function to declare Ernakulam Nipah-free.
The minister honored the doctors, staff, former district collector Mohammad Y Safeerulla, health department officials and other officials.
Addressing the event, health minister claimed cases of contagious diseases declined in Kerala following the ‘Prathidinam Prathirodham’ (daily prevention.)
The minister said the government will launch 100 lifesaving ambulances from the first week of August and increase the number to 315 from October.
“Trauma care will be started in government medical colleges in AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Sciences) model. Government also started action to establish biosafety level 3 labs in the state. Fist lab will start operation at Thiruvananthapuram,” the minister added.
Nipah fever was hardly known in India until a case was reported at a sub-divisional hospital in Kozhikode district on May 2. The patient—Mohammed Sabith—was later taken to the Government Medical College, Kozhikode for further treatment, where he later succumbed to the virus.
The outbreak began in Kozhikode district and later spread to adjoining Malappuram district. Health advisories were issued for Northern Kerala as well as the adjoining districts of Karnataka, with two suspected cases detected in Mangalore on May 23, 2018.
Later, Sabith’s brother Mohammed Salih was admitted to Baby Memorial Hospital, Kozhikode, with suspected viral encephalitis. A team of doctors at the private hospital suspected Nipah, as the symptoms of the two brothers were similar.
The samples were tested at the Manipal Institute of Virology where it was confirmed as a case of Nipah. Samples were also tested positive at National Institute of Virology, Pune.
At least 16 people contracted the virus from Sabith at Calicut Medical College Hospital; later two more were infected, increasing the total count of infected to 18. As many as 10 people died in the first week, including a nurse named Lini Puthussery who treated Sabith before diagnosis.
Over 2,000 people in Kozhikode and Malappuram districts were quarantined and kept under observation during the period of the outbreak. To fight the outbreak, a human monoclonal antibody was imported from Australia.
The first outbreak was officially declared over on June 10, 2018.
Kerala’s efforts in containing the outbreak were lauded by many, including the Kerala High Court and Robert Gallo of the Institute of Human Virology, Baltimore.
The Kerala government gave early increments to 61 people to reward them for their efforts in tackling this outbreak. It set up the “Best Nurse in Public Service Award” in memory the nurse who died while treating the affected.
The outbreak prompted Aashiq Abu, a noted film director, to produce Virus, a 2019 Indian Malayalam medical thriller film that was released on June 7 this year.