Reoccurrence of Nipah in Kozhikode calls for interdisciplinary study: Dr TP Sethumadhavan

T.P Sethumadhavan

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Kozhikode: As the idea of ‘One Health’ becomes relevant at the global level, it is not too late to adopt sustainable habitat and disease control practices that apply to nature, humans as well and animals. Animal-borne diseases are increasing all over the world and about 65 percent of infectious diseases in humans are of a zoonotic nature (disease transmitted from animals to humans).

To understand why Nipah strikes in a particular location or terrain repeatedly, an in-depth epidemiological study into the disease needs to be carried out. In light of the disease being detected in the district for the fourth time, the environmental conditions that prevailed during the previous occurrences, changes in climatic conditions, and water sources need to be assessed.

The disease control activities carried out, especially on pig farms and the increase in the number of bats and incoming migratory birds along with the peculiar symptoms shown by the patients should be investigated.

As Kozhikode turns into the epicenter of Nipah in the country once again, joint efforts need to be taken by the central and state health departments to establish a global research center to study Nipah in association with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) (formerly, Office International of Epizootics). Continuous monitoring of facilitating factors, ambient temperature, and humidity should also be frequently evaluated. Instead of implementing such measures after the detection of the disease, this should become a continuous process in an effort to eliminate future risks of the disease.

The unified efforts of the agriculture, animal husbandry, local self-government, and environment departments are the need of the hour. Collaborative research, participatory research, interdisciplinary collaboration, and international cooperation are needed in every sense.

Kerala, which garnered global attention for its management of the Nipah outbreak in previous years, should ensure scientific case studies and quick implementable diagnostic methods. The functioning of the National Virology Institute should be designed in a way to become a model for SAARC countries.

It is not recriminations or undue publicity that is required now but rather sustainable multidisciplinary studies and disease investigation procedures.

The author is a Professor at the University of Trans-Disciplinary Health Sciences and Technology, Bengaluru.

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