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The Hindu

As bat breeding season begins, Kerala on alert against Nipah

The Health department has issued an alert to all districts to be on guard against Nipah-like illnesses and to strengthen disease surveillance and monitoring as the breeding season of bats have just started.

Kerala has so far experienced three Nipah outbreaks, the first one being in 2018 in Kozhikode, a lone case again in 2019 at Ernakulam and again a lone case in Kozhikode in 2021.

Watch out for symptoms

A press release issued by the Health department said that hospitals, especially emergency/casualty wings, should be on guard against patients who come with Nipah-like symptoms, which include fever, altered mental status, severe weakness, headache, respiratory distress , cough, vomiting, muscle pain, convulsions and diarrhoea.

Bat surveillance would be strengthened in all districts and public alerted on the need to be on guard against Nipah. Forest, Veterinary and Animal Husbandry departments would be involved in all surveillance and preventive measures.

Kerala’s first tryst with Nipah was in May-June 2018 in Kozhikode and this was the first recorded NiV outbreak in southern India. A total of 23 cases were identified, though only 18 were lab-confirmed. Of the 23 cases, only two survived the infection. Strong public health response helped contain the infection fast.

In 2019, the lone case detected in Ernakulam turned out to be the index case also and the person survived. However, in 2021 when Nipah resurfaced in Kozhikode, though the outbreak was confined to a single case and a single district, the 12-year-old boy could not be saved.

While bat samples collected from the Nipah outbreak sites had revealed the presence of Nipah IgG antibodies, the source or route of infection could not be ascertained in any of the outbreaks.

The high mortality rate of Nipah is something that is a cause for concern.

People should be on the alert and take care that bat colonies are not disturbed. Fruits found on the ground and those which may have bite marks, should not be eaten by humans.

Awareness drive

As part of Nipah prevention and awareness, the Health department will organise a workshop on Nipah on May 12 in Kozhikode, focussing on the State’s experience of and learnings from the past Nipah outbreaks . Health Minister, Veena George, will inaugurate the workshop.

Representatives from ICMR, NCDC, NIV Pune, and experts doctors in community medicine, microbiology and medicine from Medical Colleges and officials from Forest, Animal Husbandry departments will participate in the workshop.

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