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ICMR urged to upgrade virology institute in State capital

By Special Correspondent

The Kerala government has urged the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to upgrade the Institute of Advanced Virology at Thiruvananthapuram to a regional virology institute. The Central Public Works department has been requested to fast-track work on the proposed virology lab at the Government Medical College Hospital, Kozhikode.

These are some of the steps being taken by the Department of Health to strengthen the surveillance and resistance against Nipah infection, Health Minister Veena George has said. She was at the Gender Park, Vellimadukunnu, here on Thursday to open a workshop titled ‘Nipah: Kerala experiences and learning’.

Ms. George said the health-care sector in Kerala was unaware of the deadly infection when it was first reported in Kozhikode in 2018. When the infection resurfaced in 2019 and 2021, however, the State could stop it from spreading.

“The presence of live virus was found in fruit-eating bats during a survey conducted by the ICMR in 2018 and 2019. Antibodies against the virus were found in the sample of bats collected from Kozhikode in 2021,” she said.

The Minister said the health-care system, including private hospitals, should be alert against the recurrence of the virus. Better coordination between the Departments of Local Self-Governments, Forests and Wildlife and Animal Husbandry, was the need of the hour. A survey, including field-level collection of information, should be taken up to detect acute encephalitis syndrome, one of the symptoms of the infection, she pointed out.

Ms. George said that public awareness was also required. Ensuring hygiene of water sources, and continuing COVID-appropriate behaviour were important steps, she added.

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