The Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) has confirmed the presence of Nipah virus antibody in bat samples collected from Maruthonkara in the northern Kozhikode district of Kerala. The state health minister Veena George said on Thursday that the ICMR had conveyed this information to the state government via email. The confirmation comes after six people were infected with the virus in the district last month, out of whom two died.
Nipah virus outbreak contained by state authorities
The state health department had declared the Nipah virus outbreak contained on October 3, after no new cases were reported for 21 days. The department had traced and monitored 1,406 contacts of the six patients, and tested 314 samples for the virus. All the samples were found negative, except for the six confirmed cases. The department had also conducted awareness campaigns and preventive measures to control the spread of the virus.
Nipah virus poses a serious threat to public health
Nipah virus is a zoonotic virus that can be transmitted from animals to humans, or through contaminated food or direct contact with infected people. The virus can cause severe respiratory and neurological complications, and has a high fatality rate of up to 75%. There is no specific treatment or vaccine for the virus, and supportive care is the only option available. The World Health Organization (WHO) has listed Nipah virus as one of the priority diseases that pose a major risk to public health.
Bats are the natural reservoirs of Nipah virus
Bats are the natural reservoirs of Nipah virus, and can shed the virus in their saliva, urine, and feces. The virus can infect other animals, such as pigs, horses, dogs, and cats, through direct or indirect contact with bats or their excretions. Humans can also get infected by consuming fruits or sap contaminated by bats, or by coming in close contact with infected animals or people. The ICMR team had collected bat samples from Maruthonkara and nearby areas to test for the presence of the virus.
Prevention and control measures are essential to prevent future outbreaks
The state health minister said that the state government would continue to monitor the situation and take necessary steps to prevent future outbreaks of Nipah virus. She urged the public to follow the guidelines issued by the health department and avoid contact with bats or their droppings. She also advised people to avoid consuming raw or partially cooked fruits, vegetables, or sap that may be contaminated by bats. She said that early detection and isolation of suspected cases, along with contact tracing and quarantine, are essential to control the transmission of the virus.