Nipah Outbreak: Health worker tested positive, contact list expands to 702

Health Minister Veena George at a press briefing on Nipah virus outbreak. Photo: Shaheen Abdulla/Maktoob

A 24-year-old health worker tested positive for the fatal Nipah virus taking the number of active cases in the state to three, State Health Minister Veena George informed through social media on Wednesday evening. Over 40 containment zones are declared after finding that at least 702 persons are in the contact list of patients in the district.

The deadly virus had already claimed two lives before the outbreak was confirmed by officials on Tuesday. Route maps of the infected people were also published by authorities to alert the public. About a dozen people are under observation in the hospital and strict curbs are introduced in containment zones.

The minister said an alert has been sounded in Kannur, Wayanad and Malappuram districts that borders Kozhikode.

Earlier today, Veena George said that the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has agreed to fly down the monoclonal antibodies that are required to treat Nipah patients.

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 steps taken by the state health department to prevent the spread of the virus.

Nipah is considered one of the most dangerous pathogens circulating in the wild. It was reported in Malaysia and Bangladesh before it was found in Kerala. As per the National Centre for Disease Control, citing the Central High Level Team, Nipah Virus Disease is not a major outbreak and only local occurrence is limited to two districts in Kerala i.e. Kozhikode & Malappuram.

“Available data suggests that there is no need for the general public to be apprehensive about the safety of individuals and their family members,” the guidelines read.

Nipah spillovers are predicted in the region by studies. There have been at least two Nipah cases in Kerala since the 2018 outbreak that took 20 lives out of 22 people infected. A 21-year-old college student survived Nipah in 2019 and a 13-year-old boy died in 2021.