Australia will provide India with 20 doses of monoclonal antibody for the treatment of Nipah virus infection, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said on Friday.
“India has procured some doses of monoclonal antibody from Australia in 2018 and currently the doses are available for only 10 patients,” ICMR Director General (DG) Rajiv Bahl said during a press briefing in the Indian national capital New Delhi.
Dr Bahl said that no one has been so far been administered the medicine in India, further highlighting that the medicine needs to be given during the early stage of the infection.
He emphasised that these can be given only as “compassionate use medicine” and that the decision to do so has to be the State government, doctors and the families of the patients.
“Globally monoclonal antibodies have been given to 14 patients infected with Nipah virus outside India and all of them have survived,”Dr Bahl said.
With repeated instances of Nipah outbreaks being reported from the southern state and the mortality rate very high compared to COVID, Bahl said that ICMR is also planning to start work on developing a vaccine against the viral disease.
The ICMR DG assured that all efforts are being taken to contain the infection in Kerala.
“To my understanding, most of the cases have been contacts of one index patient so far,” the ICMR Director General said.
Further, he said,
“Only 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.”
Developed in America, the antibody was shared with an Australian University as part of a tech-transfer initiative.
The ICMR DG said that the mortality among those infected with the Nipah virus is very high compared to that of COVID.
“If COVID had a mortality of 2-3 per cent, here the mortality is 40-70 per cent. So, the mortality is extremely high,”he said during the press briefing.
Asked about why cases keep surfacing in Kerala, he said, “Why cases keep surfacing in Kerala. We do not know… In 2018 we found 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,” Dr Bahl said.
The ICMR Director-General also emphasised that there is no vaccine for the infection and that infectivity is very high. He advised people to follow social distancing and also wear masks.
“Ways to avoid infection are the same as that followed during the COVID pandemic. A mask is important. Wash your hands and keep personal hygiene. If symptoms are identified, isolate. Stay away from raw food that could be exposed to bats. Stay away from bat colonies,”he said.
He further said that it is most important to stop human-to-human contact.
Meanwhile, one more case of Nipah virus was confirmed in Kerala earlier today pushing up the number of active cases of the brain-damaging virus in the State to four. A nine-year-old child is among those infected. With this, the total tally of Nipah virus infections from the virus in Kerala has been recorded at six, including two deaths.
According to the Kerala state health minister’s office, the 39-year-old patient is under observation in a hospital in Kozhikode.
The state government has strengthened measures to prevent the spread of the infection. Two deaths from the Nipah virus in Kozhikode took place on August 30 and September 11.
Samples of 15 people in the high-risk category in the contact list have been sent for testing in Kerala. The contact list contains 950 people of which 213 are in the high-risk category. A total of 287 health workers are also there in the contact list.
Four people in high-risk categories are in a private hospital and 17 people are under surveillance at the Kozhikode Medical College, the Kerala state health department said.
Indian Union Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare, Dr Bharati Pravin Pawar on September 14 visited the Indian Council of Medical Research – National Institute of Virology (ICMR-NIV), in Pune on Thursday and reviewed steps taken for containment of the virus outbreak in Kerala.
A multi-disciplinary team led by Dr Mala Chhabra has been deputed by the Indian Union Health Ministry to support the state in public health measures to deal with this outbreak, the minister said.
High-level teams from the Centre and ICMR-NIV with mobile units equipped with BSL-3 (Biosafety Level 3) laboratory have reached Kozhikode for on-ground testing.
Containment zones have been declared in 9 panchayats and new restrictions have been implemented from today in Kozhikode district with directions issued against gatherings or public events of any kind, including those at places of worship, in all the containment zones.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Nipah virus is caused by fruit bats and is potentially fatal to humans as well as animals. Along with respiratory illness, it is also known to cause fever, muscular pain, headache, fever, dizziness, and nausea.
In Kerala, there was a Nipah virus outbreak in the Kozhikode and Malappuram districts in 2018 and later in 2021, a case of Nipah virus was reported in Kozhikode.
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