Alert after boy dies of West Nile fever

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The death of Malappuram lad could be the first in the State due to the viral infection

The Health Department has issued an alert in Malappuram after a six-year-old boy from the district undergoing treatment for West Nile fever died at the Government Medical College Hospital on Wednesday morning.

Health experts claimed this could be the first confirmed death in the State due to the relatively unknown viral infection that leads to neurological diseases. Birds are the natural hosts of the virus and vaccine is not available for it.

Suspected case

There had been a suspected case of the infection last year in Kozhikode district but the National Institute of Virology had not confirmed it. There is an increased surveillance on encephalitis cases after last year’s Nipah outbreak in Kozhikode, which could have helped in diagnosis, the experts added. The viral infection was confirmed on Mohammed Shan of A.R. Nagar, near Vengara in the district, around a week ago after he was admitted to the intensive care unit of the Kozhikode Government Medical College Hospital.

K. Sakeena, District Medical Officer, Malappuram, told  on Monday that private and government hospitals had been directed to report suspected fever cases. The Animal Husbandry Department would keep a surveillance on birds, especially in areas such as the Kadalundy bird sanctuary, which was frequented by a large number of migratory birds, she said. According to the World Health Organization, this viral infection is most often the result of mosquito bites. Mosquitoes are infected when they feed on birds, which circulate the virus.

It may also be transmitted through contact with other infected animals, their blood, or other tissues. Symptoms of the virus infection include cold, fever, fatigue and nausea. Dr. Sakeena said that samples of birds and mosquitoes had been collected from A.R. Nagar and Venniyoor in Malappuram district.

No need to panic

Earlier, Health Minister K.K. Shylaja told the media in Thiruvananthapuram that there was no need to panic and steps were being taken to prevent the virus spreading to others.

The Director of Health Services had been asked to take steps to contain the virus, she added. The Union Health Ministry had last week sent a four-member team from the National Centre for Disease Control to Malappuram and it collected vector and bird samples from the boy’s premises. As the presence of Culex mosquitoes, which spread the infection, has been found from there, the Health Department is coordinating with the local bodies.

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