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Explained: How Kerala is tackling Coronavirus from the experience drawn from fighting Nipah in 2018


New Delhi, Feb 05: After three people from Kerala tested positive for coronavirus, the state Government had declared the lethal disease caused by the novel coronavirus as a 'state disaster'.

 Explained: How Kerala is tackling Coronavirus from the experience drawn from fighting Nipah in 2018

The novel coronavirus infection that first broke out in Wuhan, China, has spread to 25 countries so far. At least 490 deaths and 24,500 cases of the virus have been reported globally.

However, in India, Kerala would deal with novel Coronavirus (nCoV) with the situation the way it dealt with the Nipah outbreak two years. The state's handling the Nipah outbreak offers lessons for other states in the areas of coordination among responders, proper communication of risk and ensuring timely interventions.

Facing the challenges posed by the novel Coronavirus (nCoV), the state government's initiatives and swift action successfully contained the outbreak. In 2019, another case of Nipah virus was reported but it didn't spread.

Activating its officials, doctors and field staff to face the challenge much before the state's first Coronavirus case was reported from Thrissur last week, the state health department has put all persons who have returned from nCoV-hit China under its surveillance since January 15.

"If you are a person with travel history to China and returned from that country after January 15, you will be put under the radar of the district surveillance team," Dr S Sreedevi, additional DMO Ernakulam and district surveillance officer, told PTI.

According to her, those who returned from the coronavirus-hit regions are given instructions through phone on the need to remain in home quarantine for 28 days for the safety of his/her family members.

Details of the people who have travel history to China are taken from the airports. Information about the home quarantined persons are updated to the district health officials by the field staff.

"If that person is found not following the guidelines for coronavirus, he will get a call from the top district medical officers urging him not to mingle with anyone," the medical officer said.

According to her, in most cases, the people obey the instructions of the health officials as they are aware of the threat posed by the disease. "Our experience in tackling the Nipah virus in 2018 and 2019 help us in dealing with the nCoV cases," the medical officer said.

In line with the steps taken to tackle the Nipah virus outbreak, a state control room in Thiruvananthapuram and district control rooms at all district headquarters were set up much before the first coronavirus case was reported.

A meeting of top health officials and doctors, chaired by Principal Secretary, Health, is held everyday to coordinate action to prevent the spread of the virus. All important meetings are attended by the health minister.

Monitoring of those who are home quarantined is done by the primary health centres with the help of local bodies. Out-Patient wings for attending to coronavirus cases have been made operational in all government general hospitals and medical colleges in the state.

Isolation wards have also been set up in such hospitals and supply of necessary medical equipment needed for health workers also ensured. All these steps were taken drawing on the experience of battling the Nipah virus outbreak in the state in May 2018, which was reported in North Kerala districts of Kozhikode and Malappuram.

As many as 2,000 people were quarantined and kept under observation during the period of the outbreak which had claimed 16 lives, officials recalled.

The government declared it contained on June 10, 2018. But when the Nipah case was reported in the state last year, the government was very well prepared to tackle it, by keeping its surveillance high and taking precautions, officials said.

The second spell of Nipah outbreak was in Ernakulam last year and it was contained successfully. The state's lone patient, a 23-year-old student affected with the virus, was discharged after 53 days of seclusion, close monitoring and treatment at a private hospital in July last year.

Improved healthcare facilities and awareness among the people in the state enabled the government to contain the disease, they added.

The government is using the mainstream media and social media to spread awareness among the people about the threat posed by the coronavirus in the thickly populated state.

In a Facebook post, Shailaja on Tuesday urged those who have come from coronavirus-hit regions to contact health officials immediately. "Some who have come from the affected regions are still hiding their travel history and not informing the health officials. This is dangerous," the minister said. She urged people who had travelled to China in recent days to immediately contact health officials so that they could be home quarantined for a month to prevent the spread of the virus.

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