Kozhikode/New Delhi:  A fresh case of Nipah virus was confirmed in Kozhikode, where two people were killed by the brain-damaging virus recently, the Kerala government said on Friday. With the new Nipah infection in the state, taking the total number of active cases to four, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has decided to procure from Australia 20 more doses of monoclonal antibody for its treatment.

Intensifying its efforts to contain the spread of the virus, the state government also decided to test everyone who is on the high-risk contact list of the infected persons.

State Health Minister Veena George said a 39-year-old man tested positive for the virus, which was transmitted to him through direct contact with an infected person who died on August 30.

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

She said the man found infected had sought treatment at a private hospital where Nipah-infected persons were treated for other ailments earlier.

Meanwhile, in a slight relief to Kerala, the test results of 30 healthcare workers, who were the primary contacts of the first deceased Nipah-virus-infected person, returned negative on Friday.

George said the test results also showed that the person who died on August 30 was the index case.

"It was important that we properly identify the index case. Today, the results of the samples of the 30 health workers, who were the primary contacts of the index patient who died on August 30, returned negative," she told reporters in Kozhikode after attending a high-level review meeting.

She also said that those who turned negative should remain in isolation as per the instructions of the health authorities.

In New Delhi, while announcing the decision to procure 20 more doses of monoclonal antibody from Australia, ICMR DG Rajeev Bahl said that mortality among the infected is very high in Nipah (between 40 and 70 percent) compared to the mortality in COVID-19, which was 2-3 percent.

He asserted that all efforts are on to contain the spread of the virus in Kerala.

Addressing a press meet in New Delhi, he said all patients are contacts of an index patient.

On why cases

keep surfacing in Kerala, Bahl said, "We do not know. In 2018, we found that the outbreak in Kerala was related to bats. We are not sure how the infection passed from bats to humans. The link couldn't be established. Again, we are trying to find out this time. It always happens in the rainy season."

He said monoclonal antibody has been given to 14 patients infected with the Nipah virus outside India, and all of them have survived.

"Only the phase 1 trial to establish the safety of the medicine has been done outside. Efficacy trials have not been done. It can only be given as compassionate use medicine," he said.

Meanwhile, the central team arrived in Kozhikode to study the situation and conducted an inspection at the house of the index patient at the Maruthonkara panchayat.

The central team, headed by scientist Balasubramanyam, comprises members including Hanul Thukral, M Santhosh Kumar and Gajendrasingh.

The Kerala Health department said it has identified a total of 1,080 persons in the contact list of the positive patients and has started collecting samples.

The government had earlier announced that everyone who is on the high-risk contact list of the infected persons will be tested.

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

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.
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.

The 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.

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