September 17, 2023 08:24 pm | Updated September 18, 2023 05:29 pm IST – Kozhikode
The Kerala Health department is learnt to have begun efforts to identify how E. Mohammedali of Maruthonkara in Kozhikode district, the first patient who died of Nipah infection on August 30 in its fourth episode in the State, contracted the virus.
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According to sources, Mohammedali started exhibiting symptoms of the infection on August 22. The virus could have entered his body at least five or six days before this. Attempts are being made to trace his travel paths during the period. With the help of the police, the mobile phone tower locations will be identified. A team of health workers will visit all these places to find out the chances of infection.
Local residents have said that Mohammedali had a habit of visiting the backyard of a family property where there are fruit plants and the presence of bats, the natural reservoir of the virus.
No suspicious deaths
Senior officials say that there have been no reports of suspicious deaths in his family or surroundings in recent days. That means he is unlikely to have got the infection from some others. Based on this information, the department came to the conclusion that Mohammedali is the index patient, or the first one from whom all others got infected. Also, there is a cluster of infection at his home. His nine-year-old son and 24-year-old brother-in-law have been infected.
Including Ayancheri native M. Haris, who died on September 11, a total of five people have contracted the virus from Mohammedali.
Also, to confirm the conclusion, the department has proposed a genomic sequencing, a laboratory procedure to determine the order of bases in the genome of an organism in one process, of the virus present in Mohammedali and Haris. All the organisms have a unique genome composed of nucleotide bases. If they have the same pattern, that means the source of the infection is the same. The procedure, however, should be done at a bio-safety level-IV standards lab. Since the State does not have the expertise or the facility to do so, the Indian Council of Medical Research-National Institute of Virology, Pune, may be requested to do the job.
In the previous Nipah episodes in Kerala, it was concluded that fruit-eating bats are the source of the infection based on similar episodes from other countries and States and following detection of the presence of the virus in bats collected from the affected areas. It was yet to be proved how the first patient in each of these outbreaks got infected. The presumption was that the infection must have happened after the patient consumed fruits contaminated by bat saliva or through contact with its excreta.