The Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) has granted approval for the use of the Truenat test to diagnose Nipah virus (NiV) in Kerala. This development is significant as hospitals equipped with Biosafety Level 2 (BSL 2) laboratories can now conduct the test. The Health Minister, Veena George, has announced that a standard operating procedure (SOP) will be formulated for conducting the Truenat test.
Wider Accessibility of Nipah Diagnostics
With the ICMR’s approval, more laboratories in the state of Kerala will have the capacity to perform NiV diagnostics using the Truenat test. Samples testing positive for NiV through the Truenat method can be further analyzed at designated facilities such as Kozhikode or Thiruvananthapuram Medical College Hospitals or the Institute of Advanced Virology in the capital.
Effective Containment Efforts
Minister Veena George acknowledged the successful containment of the Nipah virus in Kerala, attributing this achievement to the dedicated work of the Kozhikode district surveillance team. Their efforts in promptly identifying the index case at the outset of the outbreak were instrumental in limiting the virus’s spread.
Current Nipah Status
As of now, no new cases of Nipah have been reported. Four individuals who tested positive for the virus, including the nine-year-old child of the deceased index case, are receiving treatment. The child’s condition has improved, and he no longer requires oxygen support. The other three patients are also showing signs of recovery.
Out of the 323 samples tested for Nipah, 317 have tested negative, while six cases have been confirmed positive, resulting in two deaths. Additionally, 980 individuals on the contact list are currently under isolation, with 11 of them isolated at the Kozhikode Medical College Hospital.
Serosurveillance Study and Long-term Strategy
The Health department plans to conduct a serosurveillance study among high-risk contacts to gain further insights into the epidemiology of the disease. The state is also emphasizing the development of a long-term surveillance strategy for Nipah.
Nipah surveillance is integrated into the state’s Aarogya Jagratha calendar, and healthcare workers have been trained in accordance with the Nipah protocol. Although the incubation period for Nipah is 21 days, the state intends to maintain surveillance for an additional 21 days, totaling 42 days of active monitoring. Efforts are underway to strengthen activities through the One Health initiative, involving various related departments.