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Nipah Virus Mortality Rate Massively Higher Than Covid, Warns ICMR Chief Dr Rajiv Bahl

DG ICMR Dr. Rajiv Bahl warned that the mortality rate of the Nipah virus is massively higher than Covid-19.

Nipah Virus Mortality Rate Massively Higher Than Covid, Warns ICMR Chief Dr. Rajiv Bahl
A central team of experts visits the homes at Chathamangalam where one Nipah victim died, in Kozhikode (ANI Photo)

New Delhi: The mortality rate of the Nipah virus is massively higher than Covid-19, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Director General, Dr. Rajiv Bahl informed on Friday. “Mortality among those infected with Nipah virus is very high- between 40 to 70 percent as compared to that of Covid which was around 2-3 percent,” Dr. Bahl said.

Addressing a press conference the ICMR DG said efforts are underway to contain the outbreak of Nipah virus as the mortality rate is very high, adding that all the infected came in contact of one index patient or patient zero.

Dr. Bahl said India has sought 20 more doses of monoclonal antibody which needs to be administered during early stages of exposure to Nipah virus. “We have monoclonal antibody doses for only 10 patients; no one has been administered so far,” he said, adding that efficacy trials of monoclonal antibodies have not been done with only phase 1 trial being completed and as such it can only be given as compassionate-use medicine.

Speaking about why Nipah virus cases keep surfacing in Kerala, the ICMR chief said they are investigating the nature of the outbreak.

Active cases rise to 4

Meanwhile, the number of active cases in Kerala rose to four after a 39-year-old man tested positive for the Nipah virus on Friday. According to Kerala Health Minister Veena George, the man contracted the virus through direct contact with an infected person who died on August 30.

With the number of active cases rising to four, the state government has decided to test everyone who are on the high-risk contact list of the infected persons.

George said that the man was confirmed with the Nipah virus after his samples turned positive, taking the total infected in the state to six, of which two had died earlier.

The minister’s office today said that the person found infected had sought treatment at a private hospital where Nipah-infected persons were treated for other ailments earlier.

A high-level meeting was held at the Kozhikode Collectorate here today to take stock of the situation.

Besides George, Ministers P A Mohammed Riyas, Ahamed Devarkovil and A K Saseendran took part in the meeting.

Briefing the media after the meeting, George said the health conditions of those affected, including the nine-year-old boy on ventilator support, were stable.

It is suspected that the patients under treatment were infected with the virus from a person who died on August 30, she said.

“So, we have decided to test all those who are under high-risk contacts even though they don’t have any symptoms. Currently, we have two additional facilities in Kozhikode. We have a mobile lab from the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB) with two machines that can test 96 samples at a time,” she said.

As per protocol, only the samples of those who show symptoms can be checked. “But here we have decided to test the samples of all those who are in the high-risk category of contacts. We have the mobile lab from RGCB and the lab at Kozhikode Medical College Hospital,” the minister said.

Along with the mobile testing lab from RGCB, the mobile lab from Pune NIV has also reached the state, which will increase the speed of testing and confirming the results, she said.

The ICMR’s National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune had on Thursday sent its mobile BSL-3 (Biosafety Level-3) laboratory to Kozhikode to test the samples for the virus in the district where two deaths were recorded.

A five-member Central team comprising experts from the National Centre for Disease Control, RML Hospital and NIMHANS has been stationed in Kerala to take stock of the situation and assist the state government in the management of the Nipah infection.

This is the fourth time the viral infection has been confirmed in the state. It was detected in Kozhikode in 2018 and 2021 and in Ernakulam in 2019.

The district administration has already declared a holiday for educational institutions in Kozhikode on Saturday (September 16), in addition to Thursday and Friday.

On Wednesday, a 24-year-old health worker became Kerala’s fifth confirmed Nipah case in the latest outbreak.

World Health Organisation and ICMR studies have found that the entire state, not just Kozhikode, is prone to such infections. People living in forest areas have to take the highest precautions, it said, adding that the latest virus originated within five kilometres of a jungle area.

(With PTI inputs)

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