Karnataka steps up vigil at borders after Kerala reports Nipah virus

The district administrations have been asked to monitor arrivals from Kerala for symptoms like fever, altered mental status, severe weakness, headache, respiratory distress, cough, vomiting, muscle pain, convulsion and diarrhoea.

With Nipah virus cases rising in Kerala, the Karnataka health department strengthened its surveillance and preparedness in the districts bordering Kerala. The government’s main focus is in Dakshina Kannada, Udupi, Mysuru, Kodagu and Chamarajanagara.

The district administrations have been asked to monitor arrivals from Kerala for symptoms like fever, altered mental status, severe weakness, headache, respiratory distress, cough, vomiting, muscle pain, convulsion and diarrhoea.

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An advisory from Additional Chief Secretary to government (Department of Health and Family Welfare) Jawaid Akhtar reads, “A systematic surveillance system is a necessary method to identify clusters of encephalitis cases resulting in early detection of a Nipah outbreak. Suitable samples to be collected with all necessary precautions from suspected and probable contacts and sent to National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, for laboratory confirmation.”

The advisory also states that since there is no known treatment or vaccine available, Ribavirin, an antiviral, may help in reducing mortality among patients with encephalitis caused by the virus.

“Intensive supportive care with treatment of symptoms is the main approach for managing the infection among people. The district authorities are instructed to send the daily reports even if nil…to the Commissioner, Health and Family Welfare Services,” the advisory further reads.

Nipah virus is an emerging zoonotic virus (a virus transmitted to humans from animals). Fruit bats of the family Pteropodidae – particularly species belonging to the Pteropus genus – are the natural hosts of Nipah virus.

The health department said Nipah cases tend to occur in a cluster or as an outbreak. In general, the case-fatality rate is estimated at 40%-75%, however, it can vary and may even go up to 100%.

In 2018, the Kerala government had placed four districts on high alert — Ernakulam, Thrissur, Kollam, and Idukki. Seventeen persons had succumbed to Nipah in the same year after which, the bordering districts of Karnataka were also placed on high alert.

Deputy Commissioner (Bengaluru Urban) J Manjunath told The Indian Express, “In the wake of (Nipah) cases in Kerala, our health officers, who were deployed at the bordering areas of Bengaluru to check for Covid negative reports, will now also be checking for Nipah symptoms among people coming in from Kerala. If any symptom is found in a person, we will send him or her to a hospital.”

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