The Kerala government has asked Centre to rush a team of experts after panic gripped many areas in the northern part of the state following the death of three persons of a family in Peramabra in Kozhikode district after they were infected with an unknown virus.
An official of the health department said six persons are serious and 25 are under observation. He said since the doctors can’t pinpoint the virus, patients are being treated with supportive medicines.
The state government’s health department has opened an isolation ward in Kozhikode medical college hospital and formed a task force headed by district collector U V Jose. The government has also sought the help of private hospitals.
Among those now under treatment are a nurse who attended to the deceased and four of their family members.
Mohammed Sadik (26), his brother Mohamed Saliah (28) and their paternal aunt Mariumma (50) died in a span of two weeks of an undetected disease.
Virology experts from Manipal and Apollo hospitals have visited the area and took blood samples of the affected. A medical officer has been deputed in the area to prepare a list of those who interacted with the deceased and keep them under observation. State Health Minister K K Shailaja who is camping in the district urged people not to get carried away by reports appearing on social media.
“The samples of the infected have been collected and sent to the National Institute of Virology. We are expecting results in a couple of days,” the minister said adding there was no need for any panic. However, she said this is the first time such an outbreak is being reported from the state and asked the Centre to rush a team of experts.
Doctors suspect that it may be viral encephalitis-induced myocarditis (a disease marked by inflammation and damage of the heart muscle). But they are at a loss how the virus spread. They suspect that it might have spread through birds or animals. People have been advised not to eat fruits and other food item bitten by birds and animals.
Many reports are appearing on social media triggering panic in the area. Some reports suggest Nipah virus is behind these deaths. Nipah (NiV) is a newly-emerged virus that causes severe diseases in both animals and human beings. The natural hosts of the virus are fruit bats. According to the World Health Organisation there is no vaccine for either virus and the primary treatment for humans is intensive supportive care.
When asked whether infection was triggered by NiV virus Dr Arun Kumar of the Manipal Centre for Research who is camping in the district for last two days, said it cannot be confirmed at this juncture.
“No need for any panic. The disease has been confined to a small area,” he said.