An outbreak of a deadly virus in the southern Indian state of Kerala has been contained after taking 17 lives, according to officials.
No additional cases of the Nipah virus, which can cause encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain, or respiratory diseases, have been found, they said Thursday.
Most of the fatalities occurred in the districts of Kozhikode and Mallapuram.
“We just have those patients who have been in contact with the dead ones, so there is no situation of it getting transmitted any further,” said Prathap Somnath, vice principal of the Government Medical College in Kozhikode.
As per the latest figures from the Kerala Health Ministry updated Thursday evening, 16 patients succumbed to the infection, excluding the first victim whose sample was never sent for testing.
The virus took 14 lives in Kozhikode three in Mallapuram.
(Government Medical College Hospital, where Nipah virus patients have been treated)
According to the latest data by the ministry, 11 patients are currently being kept under observation at the medical college and are being routinely checked for any signs of the virus, which is commonly carried by fruit bats.
Although the transmission of the virus has stopped, the state’s medical unit is still researching to identify how the first victim was infected.
According to PTI news agency, on May 26, a medical team of Kerala collected samples of 55 fruit bats but their results are yet to be declared. These samples are being tested in the Karnataka-based Manipal Center for Virus Research and the National Institute of Virology in Maharashtra.
While the state government has confirmed there are no fresh cases of the virus among locals in the state, it will continue its vigilance until June 30 and issue an official statement after that.
Meanwhile, locals in the affected area are uneasy as they believe that the transmission of the virus has not stopped.
“People in Kozhikode are very scared due to this sudden spread of Nipah fever and they don’t want to get treated in this hospital as they feel that they might get the infection from the admitted ones,” said Aboobacker, a 62-year-old retired businessman.
As locals have been confining themselves to their homes, shopkeepers have suffered from a drop in trading.
“People are really scared in the area and that is why I had to close my shop, as nobody is buying fruit because of the Nipah infection,” said fruit seller Krishan Kutty, whose shop is near the medical college where all the infected people have been admitted.
While life in Kozhikode and Mallapuram is slowly returning to normal, the government has heaped praise on doctors at Kozhikode Medical College who identified the Nipah virus soon after the second death was reported.
“This is the first time in Kerala that NiV has been detected. What we can claim is that we were being able to detect the infection very fast,” said the vice principal of Kozhikode Medical College.
Nipah was first detected in 1999 during an outbreak among pig farmers in Malaysia and Singapore, but since then no outbreak has been reported. In 2001, India and Bangladesh recognized the virus for the first time and since then, nearly annual outbreaks have occurred in Bangladesh.