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West Nile Fever Cases in Kerala Puts State on Alert: How Does the Virus Spread?

The Kerala health department issued an alert directing all district officials to increase surveillance activities.

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At least nine cases of West Nile fever have been reported in Kerala’s Kozhikode, Malappuram, and Thrissur districts. A 79-year-old man from Thrissur also succumbed to the viral infection.

The Kerala health department issued an alert on Tuesday, 7 May, telling all district officials to increase surveillance activities and to focus on pre-monsoon cleaning drives to control the breeding of mosquitoes.

FIT breaks it all down for you.

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How does West Nile fever spread?

Culex mosquitoes carry and transmit the viral infection to humans. Originally caused by birds, the viral infection is a non-communicable disease when contracted by humans. 

What have Kerala health authorities said?

Kerala’s Health Minister Veena George said,

“Since 2011, cases of West Nile have been reported in several districts in the state. There is no need for any kind of concern. If someone has fever or other symptoms, they must contact health officials immediately.”

The state health authorities have directed district officials to:

  • Clean stagnant water bodies

  • Prevent mosquito breeding

They have also advised that people take preventive measures such as:

  • Wearing clothes that fully cover your body

  • Using mosquito repellant sprays or products

  • Using mosquito nets

  • Ensuring that there’s no stagnant water or mosquito breeding grounds around them

How are the patients doing so far?

Kozhikode District Collector Snehil Kumar Singh, was quoted by Hindustan Times, as saying,

“Of the five cases reported so far in the district, four have recovered, and one is currently under treatment in the government medical college hospital. Cases of West Nile Fever have been reported in the district before. It’s similar to dengue. There is no cause for alarm or panic right now. There are no hot spots.”

In 2011, Kerala had reported its first case of West Nile fever. So far, two people have died due to infection in the state – a six-year-old boy in 2019, and a 47-year-old man in 2022.

What are the symptoms?

While most cases of West Nile fever are asymptomatic, the effect individuals might experience:

  • Fever and itching

  • Muscle aches

  • Vomiting or nausea

  • Diarrhoea 

  • Headache and sometimes memory loss

  • Dizziness

In severe cases, the viral fever can lead to:

  • Encephalitis

  • Meningitis

  • Neurological issues

  • Death

How is West Nile fever treated?

As of now, there’s no vaccine for the viral infection, according to the state health minister. Patients are treated based on the symptoms they experience.

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