KERALA, India - A rare virus is spreading shockingly in India’s southern state of Kerala - the Nipah Virus, which is thought to be spread by fruit-eating bats.
The Health Department of Kerala confirmed on Monday that three people had died in Kozhikode district after having been infected by a rare virus called Nipah.
According to officials in the state, five people had died after possibly having contracted the Nipah fever.
Officials explained that Nipah virus (NiV) was first documented in 1998 and is thought to be spread by fruit-eating bats and presents with a range of symptoms.
So far, experts have said that Nipah virus infection can occur in humans or animals.
It is also confirmed that fruit bats from the Pteropodidae Family are thought to be the natural carriers of the disease.
A report by the World Health Organization (WHO) revealed that the 1998 outbreak, which was the first major recorded incident of NiV, left over 100 people dead in Malaysia.
At the time, experts said that domesticated pigs were seen as the hosts.
Then, in 2001, the first outbreak occurred in India in West Bengal and was attributed solely to fruit bats.
Many in Bangladesh fell ill that year, after consuming palm sap which had been contaminated by the fruit bat.
The WHO has stated that human to human transmission is also seeing a steady rise.
On Monday, the Health Department confirmed the presence of Nipah Virus in the state for the first time.
Authorities concerned are now believed to be taking measures to identify individuals who have been affected.
The have reportedly started fever clinics and are aiming at containing the outbreak.
Kerala Health Services Director Dr R L Saritha said on Sunday, “Today, we got the confirmation report from National Institute of Virology, Pune. We had sent four samples to the institute and three of them tested positive for Nipah virus.”
Officials have also revealed that samples from the deceased were collected and sent to a virology lab at the Kasturba Medical College, Manipal and National Virology Institute in Pune and the results reportedly confirmed the presence of Nipah virus in the samples.
Local reports noted that so far, 25 people have been kept under observation and nine others are already undergoing treatment for the disease and are in a critical condition.
Six victims are undergoing treatment at the Medical College Hospital in Kozhikode, one at a private hospital in Kozhikode and one at Kochi.
India’s Union Minister J P Nadda has already directed the Director of National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to visit Kozhikode district to assist the state government.
Nadda said in a tweet, "Reviewed the situation of deaths related to Nipah virus in Kerala with Secretary Health. I have directed Director NCDC to visit the district and initiate required steps as warranted by the protocol for the disease in consultation with state government.”