8 months after Nipah outbreak, Kerala now has its first virology institute

8 months after Nipah outbreak, Kerala now has its first virology institute

The Nipah virus outbreak was one of the largest crisis the health care department of Kerala has faced in 2018. The outbreak detected in mid-May claimed 16 lives across Kerala. Though the outbreak was controlled by timely intervention of the government machinery, it also exposed major flaws in the system.

Post the outbreak, the state realised the necessity for a virology institute for early detection of viral outbreaks. The project was cleared in the same month and the foundation stone was laid on May 30, 2018 by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. Today, eight months after the project was launched, Pinarayi Vijayan has come to the site yet again. This time around, he will be dedicating the first phase of the institute to the state.

Institute of Advanced Virology (IAV) will be the first institute in the country to be linked with Global Virus Network (GVN), a coalition of world’s leading virologists. Kerala, which has so far been dependent on institutes outside the state for detecting various viruses, now hopes to help others.

“Initially, the institute will be linked to a European Centre, Karolinska Institute and an Asian Centre like the one in Japan, as an affiliate. These two institutes will train and guide the faculty and physicians. Under their training, we expect the institute to grow within two years as GVN centre of excellence,” said MV Pillai, senior advisor, Global Virus Network.

“The institute will focus on early diagnosis of viral diseases, improving our understanding about pathogens and planning preventive measures. It will be an institute of international standards capable of developing measures to tackle outbreaks. The Institute of Advanced Virology will function under the guidance of Kerala State Council for Science, Technology & Environment,” Pinarayi Vijayan wrote on his Facebook page.

In May last year, the state health department had to seek support of Manipal virology institute for detecting the nature of the virus. This took more than a week’s time, resulting in the spread of the virus to other areas. The health department had assessed that the causality numbers could have been brought down had the virus been detected much earlier.