New Delhi: The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Thursday issued an advisory for the general public and healthcare personnel on how to take preventive measures in high-risk areas and how the Nipah virus spreads and what are its symptoms.
The ministry advised the public to avoid consuming raw date palm sap or toddy, half-eaten fruits from the ground and refrain from entering into abandoned wells and eat only washed fruits.
It informed that handling of bodies of those who died due to the disease should be done in accordance with the government advisory and that during this emotional moment traditional rituals and practices may need to be modified to prevent the exposure of family members to the disease.
The advisory also urged the public to wash their hands with soap and water after coming into contact with a sick person or an animal.
It said that Nipah virus which commonly affects animals such as bats, pigs, dogs and horses can spread from animals to humans and can sometimes cause serious illness among humans.
Explaining the process, the spread of Nipah virus to humans may occur after close contact with other Nipah infected people, infected bats, or infected pigs. Bat secretions laden with the virus can infect people during fruit tree climbing, eating/handling contaminated fallen fruits or consuming raw date palm sap/juice or toddy, the advisory read.
It said that human-to-human infection can occur from close contact with persons affected with Nipah at home while providing care or close contact and in the hospital setting if the appropriate personal protective equipment is not used.
The advisory underscored that people who are exposed to areas inhabited by fruit bats/articles contaminated by secretions such as unused wells and fruit orchards are likely to be at higher risk of infections.
Persons with direct contact with sick pigs or their contaminated tissues, persons in close contact with a Nipah virus affected deceased during burial or cremation rituals or health care workers having direct contact with probable or confirmed cases without using standard precautionary measures are also at a high risk of developing the infection.
The health ministry also issued a separate advisory for healthcare personnel and advised them to wash hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds after contact with a sick patient, practice precautions for infection control while handling Nipah cases (suspected/confirmed), limiting the use of injections and sharp objects.
For aerosol-generating procedures, personal protective equipment (PPE) such as individual gowns (impermeable), gloves, masks and goggles or face shields and shoe cover and the procedure should be performed in an airborne isolation room, the advisory further read.
All non-dedicated, non-disposable medical equipment used for patient care should be cleaned and disinfected as per manufacturers' instructions and hospital policies, it continued.
If the use of sharp objects cannot be avoided, ensure that precautions are observed like never replace the cap on a used needle, never direct the point of a used needle towards any part of the body, do not remove used needles from disposable syringes by hand, and do not bend, break or otherwise manipulate used needles by hand, never re-use syringes or needles, dispose of syringes, needles, scalpel blades and other sharp objects inappropriate, puncture-resistant containers.
Ensure that containers for sharps objects are placed as close as possible to the immediate area where the objects are being used (point of use') to limit the distance between use and disposal, and ensure the containers remain upright at all times, the advisory said.
So far, the rare and deadly virus has claimed 11 lives in Kerala. The state's health department has issued an advisory for people travelling to the state. It has urged travellers to be extra cautious while visiting Kozhikode, Malappuram, Wayanad and Kannur districts.
Earlier, Kerala Governor P Sathasivam had appealed to the people of the state not to panic over the rumours being circulated about the spread of the virus and requested everyone to follow the advisories issued by the health department.
Also, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the state government is closely monitoring the outbreak and taking steps to prevent its further spread.
Taking cognizance of the issue, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare JP Nadda has also directed to constitute a team of six doctors to probe the outbreak of the virus.