Monday, December 6, 2021
EditorialsEditorial: Return of Nipah virus

Editorial: Return of Nipah virus

Published: 6th Sep 2021 12:00 am | Updated: 5th Sep 2021 7:10 pm

At a time when there is a relentless surge in Covid-19 infections in Kerala, accounting for a lion’s share of the nationwide case load, the return of the dreaded Nipah virus to the State is a cause for major concern. The death of a 12-year-old boy in Kozhikode after testing positive for the virus brought back horrific memories of the Nipah attack that rattled Kerala in 2018, leaving 17 people dead. It is a zoonotic virus that can be transmitted to humans from animals such as fruit bats and pigs. What is more alarming is that the disease has a high fatality rate and there is no known treatment or vaccine available. This is the time for the Centre and the State government to take up containment measures with mutual trust and coordination. There are urgent steps that need to be taken jointly, including contact tracing, quarantine, isolation, collection, and transportation of samples for lab testing and a detailed study of the surrounding areas by the National Centre for Disease Control from an epidemiological standpoint. Already, the southern State is reeling under the impact of the high incidence of Covid-19 cases. Several reasons have been attributed to the sustained and consistent increase in the number of cases, such as relaxation in lockdown measures and a low seroprevalence rate that estimates the percentage of people in a population who have antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Another key reason for the spike is the violation of quarantine rules by people who are recovering at home. A study has revealed that 35% of people were found to have been infected with the disease from home.

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On average, Kerala reported over 19,500 daily cases in August, accounting for 60-65% of the total cases in the country. The State had reported 561 new cases per million during last month against a national average of around 25. Despite having a creditable healthcare infrastructure, Kerala has been bearing the brunt of the Covid-19 surge. It was observed that the spike was particularly high soon after the Onam festivities as people had dropped their guards. Many have blamed the State government for creating a fertile ground for transmission by relaxing restrictions during the festival season. An uptick in cases began in July, when the number of new cases rose from about one lakh in the week before Bakri-Eid to 1.22 lakh new cases in the week after. A month later came Onam. From 1.34 lakh cases a week before the festival, the case tally rose to 1.73 lakh in the week after. There is a need for strict enforcement of Covid-appropriate public behaviour and the containment zones need to be defined with a special focus on high-transmission clusters.

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