Nipah in Kozhikode: Tests identify bats as source of virus

Photo: Manorama

Kozhikode: Almost a month after Nipah created a scare in Kerala’s Kozhikode district, virologists have identified bats as the source of the deadly virus.

Kerala Health Minister Veena George confirmed this on Wednesday. “Bat samples collected from Pazhoor in Chathamangalam gram panchayat (where a 12-year-old boy died due to Nipah infection on September 5) carry antibodies of the virus. This was confirmed in the tests done at the National Institute of Virology in Pune. We could now infer that bats were the source of the virus,” she said.

Experts from the Pune institute and Bhopal’s National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases had collected bat samples from the vicinity of the victim’s house two weeks ago with the support of wildlife veterinarians of the Kerala Forest Department.

The identification of the source of infection appears to have boosted the morale of the state's health department that has been groping in the dark about the infection till the other day.

“This is just an inference and more tests have to be done to confirm the result,” the minister said.

Twelve-year-old Mohammed Hashim had succumbed to the virus on September 5. He was first admitted to the Government Medical College Hospital in Kozhikode with high fever and breathing difficulties on August 31. His samples were sent for testing on September 1 and it returned positive on September 3. Since then, Kozhikode district has been on high alert. People who came in contact with the boy were quarantined and 140 samples were sent for testing. All samples returned negative.

Health department officials hope there will not be any further virus spread for the time being as 21 days have passed without a single positive case.

The identification of the virus source appears to have given credence to the initial reports that the boy was infected after he ate Rambutan fruit bitten by bats.

In 2018, 21 people from Kozhikode and Malappuram districts died in the Nipah outbreak. The virus infected one person in Ernakulam district in 2019, but timely medical intervention had saved his life. In 2018 too, bats were identified as the source of the virus.

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