The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) will focus on determining the source of the Nipah outbreak, which claimed 17 lives in Kerala. While the viral infection has been contained, approximately 2,000 suspected persons are being monitored to rule out any other cases.
They will be monitored for 42 days, said ICMR officials. Seventeen people — 14 in Kozhikode and three in Malappuram districts in Kerala — have died due to Nipah virus infection so far. “Our primary concern was to contain the local outbreak,” said Dr R Gangakhedkar, head, Division of Epidemiology and Communicable diseases, ICMR.
While no new case has been reported since May 30, experts believe there is a need to understand and determine the source of the Nipah outbreak.
The Nipah virus infection is an emerging zoonosis, which causes diseases in both animals and humans. The natural host of the virus are fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family and Pteropus genus. As many as 55 fruit bats have been sent to the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune for further tests, ICMR officials told The Indian Express.
Samples of bats collected earlier, from the two Kerala districts, were of a different species and had tested negative for the infection, said NIV scientists. The previous samples were from insectivorous bats, which are not known to be Nipah carriers, and not from fruit bats, said Gangakhedkar.
Dr Gangakhedkar said the Nipah virus stays for a short time in the bodies of fruit bats as their system was capable of fighting it. Even if a bat has been infected by virus earlier, its samples may test negative later, he said, adding, “We need a larger sample size for testing