The deadly Nipah outbreak that has been happening in consecutive years proves the presence of the virus in the fruit bats in Kerala. The virus is transferred into human beings when they eat the fruits that are bitten by the bats. It is usually at night that the bats eat the fruits. So, it is safe not to eat the fruits that have fallen in the yard, in the morning. Usually, the presence of Nipah virus is detected after the death of the patient. It is crucial then to trace the contact list and keep them in isolation. The health workers are familiar with the treatment protocols and guidelines as there have been incidents of Nipah outbreaks in the previous years.
In the present situation, Kerala is equipped to face any emergency situation. However, it is very important to find the origin of the virus. The flying fox bats have been identified as the carriers of the Nipah virus. These bats can fly for long stretches too.
It is assumed that these bats come from the Western Ghats. The state should take the initiative to do research about the presence of the bats that are carriers of Nipah virus in Kerala, the origin of these bats, their habitat and various other factors that are related to the virus. Such research projects would be helpful in prevention, especially since Nipah has been reporting in many parts of the state for the last few years.
(The writer is a retired professor of Virology at Vellore Christian Medical College.)