Nipah Virus causes scare in Southern India; kills 13

Image: Aljazeera News

While there have been no confirmed instances of people being affected by the Nipah virus in northern India so far, the number of rumors and unverified information doing the rounds in social media in Karnataka, have led to a spurt in the number of calls being received by Arogya Sahayavani (104), the 24X7 health helpline of the state Health Department. In the past three days, the helpline has recorded 87 calls in which anxious enquiries have been made about the virus, its symptoms and the chances of it affecting the callers.

The first call came in on May 22 and the helpline staff has been busy giving out information about the virus since then. Till date, around five suspected cases have been singled out for testing of which four have come back negative for the virus — which has a range of clinical presentations, from asymptomatic infection to acute respiratory syndrome and fatal encephalitis. Two cases from Mangaluru came back negative, while three more suspected cases have been identified in Shivamogga, Gadag and Dakshina Kannada. Mahmood Sharif, research officer, state Health Department, said, “Shivamogga and Dakshina Kannada cases have come back negative from Manipal Centre for Virus Research. We are awaiting test results for the Gadag case from National Institute of Virology, Pune.

Initially, Fruit Bats were understood as the cause of this Virus. However, Fruit bats may not be the cause of the brain-damaging NIPAH (NiV) virus that killed 12 people and infected 20 in southern Kerala, a medical test report has said. The blood and serum samples of 21 bats tested at the National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases in Bhopal returned negative results for the virus, officials said. Health officials linked the initial deaths to a well colonised by bats at a house in Kerala’s Kozihikode where the four members of a family died of the rare Nipah virus.