Kerala’s Public Health System Contains Nipah Outbreak
Kerala, which has a robust public health system, swung into action when the fourth Nipah outbreak was confirmed on September 12. Six positive cases, including two deaths on August 30 and September 11, have been reported.
Tracing contacts of the infected, releasing route maps, announcing containment zones, setting up control cells and testing all individuals in the high-risk category have helped the health department contain the spread.
The Left Democratic Front (LDF) government has utilised the health emergencies and the Nipah and COVID-19 outbreaks to strengthen the public health infrastructure. The Institute of Advanced Virology was set up in Thiruvananthapuram in 2019 after the first Nipah outbreak.
SYSTEM EQUIPPED TO DEFEND HEALTH EMERGENCIES
Equipped with the experience of handling three Nipah previous outbreaks and two waves of COVID-19, the system has handled the situation meticulously on testing and containment.
The samples of the two people who died were tested at the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune.The health and LSG department began the containment measures immediately to prevent another spread.
Under the direct supervision of health minister Veena George and a team of public health experts, a control room was set up at Government Guest House, Kozhikode, to coordinate action and 19 specialised teams with 10 members each, around 200 volunteers and health department officials were pressed into service.
The police and cyber security helped track the mobile tower locations of patients to alert those who were in contact with them. More than 1,300 people were found to be in contact with the positive patients and were isolated. People with comorbiditieswere tested.
Quarantined people were given psychological counselling throughcall centres and isolation wards were set at the Government Medical College. An NIV mobile testing unit arrived in Kozhikode with a simultaneous testing capacity of 96 samples to speed up the process.
With the Nipah outbreak suspected between May and October, the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme team was asked to recordmysterious symptoms resulting from fever and record the status.
At a press meet on September 19, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan announced that the Nipah scare was under control but urged people to be cautious.
LEADING IN HEALTH PARAMETERS
The 2021Health Dossier, published by the National Health Mission through the National Health Systems Resource Centre and the NITI Ayog, has credited Kerala for its exemplary achievements. Kerala was the first state to setupan Institute of Advanced Virology.
As per the National Health Accounts, Kerala’s per capita health expenditure is Rs 2,272, much higher than the national average of Rs 1,753.
The state occupies the top position in the country in indicators such as life expectancy, infant and maternal mortality and the male-female ratio in the population.
According to the 2022 Economic Reviewof the State Planning Board, “Public healthcare in the state focuses on accessible, equitable, affordableand high-quality healthcare services for all”.
The LDF government, during its earlier tenures and since the consecutive terms since 2016, has been investing heavily to upgrade the public health infrastructure.
The state government invested Rs 1,887.13 crore in 2022-23 comparedto Rs 1,419.30 in 2018-19 on health from the total state plan outlay of Rs 30,370 crore, 6.21% of the total outlay. The Local Self-Government Department and other departments too contribute to the sector.
Recently,5,409 primary health centres (PHCs) were upgraded into Health and Wellness Centres.Besides, more subcentres, PHCs and Community Health Centreshave been set up in rural, urban and tribal areas. The infrastructure of government hospitals are frequently upgraded with funds allocated by the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board.
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