Given the seasonal pattern of Nipah virus (NiV) outbreaks in South Asia and its own first-hand experience with this highly infectious pathogen in May this year, the Health Department has issued a directive to all district health administrations to take all pre-emptive measures against a possible seasonal outbreak in the next few months.
The caution has been issued to all District Medical Officers following a note circulated by Additional Chief Secretary (Health) Rajeev Sadanandan that all health personnel and health facilities remain on guard as December-June is the period when Nipah virus transmission usually occurs.
Fruit bats of the genus Pteropus are the natural reservoirs of NiV. The DMOs have been asked to issue community alerts cautioning the public against eating fruits bitten by bats. Public should also be alert against going into areas where fruit bats nest in large numbers.
According to the CDC, during stressful psychological conditions or seasons , the virus load in bats go up and a lot of it is spilled in their urine and saliva. Scientists have linked seasonal transmission of NiV to this phenomenon.
“In Kerala, it was a rare case of direct bat to human transmission of the virus and hence, it is highly unlikely that the State will have another outbreak,” says G. Arunkumar, Head of Manipal Virus Research Laboratory.
Hospitals have been asked to be doubly cautious when dealing with patients with respiratory distress or disorders and to provide three-layer protective masks to all health personnel.
Human-to-human transmission of NiV happens when people come into contact with respiratory droplets and nasal secretions of the infected.
It has been directed that an alert be issued regarding the maintenance of cough etiquette — covering the mouth while sneezing or coughing, frequent hand washing and social distancing when one has flu.