Nipah virus in Kerala: Don‘t blame the bats, they aren‘t the key carriers

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Samples collected from in Kerala's Kozhikode and Malappuram districts, where 12 people have died of Nipah infection, have tested negative for the virus, according to a report submitted by a central medical team to the today.

The report has ruled out and pigs as the primary source of the Nipah outbreak, a official said.

The medical team is now looking into other possible reasons behind the outbreak following the report findings.

A total of 21 samples, including that from seven species of bats, two species of pigs, one bovine and one caprine, were sent to the Institute of High Security Animal Diseases in Bhopal and the Institute of Virology in Pune.

"These included the samples of the which were found in the well in a house in Kerala's Perambra from where the initial death was reported. They have tested negative for the Nipah virus," the official said.

Samples from humans suspected of contracting have tested negative. "Which means there are only 15 confirmed cases which include 12 deaths. Three persons are undergoing treatment," he said.

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The samples from bats found dead in Himachal Pradesh, which were sent to the Pune institute, have been found negative and the two samples of suspected cases from Hyderabad were also negative.

Experts from the Institute of Virology, Pune and departments of Animal Husbandry and Forest have begun collecting the samples that would be sent to NIHSAD, to test for the presence of the virus in the fruit-eating bats, Dr N N Sasi, the Director Animal Husbandry, told PTI.

Earlier, samples of three caught from an unused well of the Moosa family, which lost three members to Nipah virus, were sent to the Bhopal laboratory along with samples of pigs, goats and cattle in the 5 km radius of the affected area and all of them tested negative, he said.

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"We are trying to catch fruit-eating bats from the perambra region now," Sasi said.

According to an official, the droppings, urine and secretions of the bats will also be sent for testing.

The has urged people not to panic, asserting that the outbreak is "localised" to Kerala. It has issued advisories to the general public and healthcare providers to adopt preventive measures.

The multi-disciplinary central team led by the National Centre for Disease Control director is constantly reviewing the situation in Kerala.

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The team has fine-tuned the draft guidelines, case definitions, advisory for healthcare workers, information to the general public, advisories for sample collection and transportation accordingly.

The -tracing strategy has been successful, the health ministry said, adding that it has been found that all the reported cases – including the suspected cases – had a direct or indirect with the first casualty or his family prior to contracting the disease.

The central medical team has put Kozhikode and Malappuram on "high alert" and has advised authorities to set up facilities to screen suspected cases at exit and entry points of the districts.

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The local administration in the two districts has set up a taskforce with a designated control room and a nodal officer has been appointed to collect data to ensure preventive measures.

(NiV) infection is a newly-emerging zoonosis that causes severe disease in animals and humans. The natural host of the virus are fruit bats of the Pteropodidae Family, Pteropus genus.

At present, there is no vaccine or drug to treat NiV infection in humans or animals. The primary treatment for human cases is intensive supportive care.

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The virus spreads through close with people's secretions and excretions. Eating food that may have droplets of saliva and urine of infected bats can lead to transmission of the virus.

cases were previously reported from West Bengal's Siliguri in 2001 and Nadia district in 2007. A total of 47 deaths were reported from the two districts.