Days after the Kerala government declared Kozhikode and Malappuram districts as Nipah Virus free, it has been confirmed that fruit bats were the source of the deadly virus that killed 17 people in the state.
A report by Hindustan Times quoted Union Health Minister JP Nadda as saying that tests conducted by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) confirmed fruit bats from Changaroth panchayat in Kerala's Kozhikode district, as the source of the outbreak.
“Scientists have found conclusive evidence of Nipah Virus infection in the fruit bats found in the area,” said JP Nadda, Union Health and Family Welfare Minister.
While the first round of tests conducted on bat samples in May tested negative for Nipah Virus, it is a second round of tests that have now confirmed the source, says the report.
A scientist with ICMR told HT:
"The 21 bats trapped and tested were insectivores that do not carry the Nipah Virus; 55 bats trapped in the second round included fruit bats, which tested positive for the Nipah Virus."
However, the Kerala government has not yet confirmed this information. Speaking to TNM, Additional Chief Secretary Rajeev Sadanandan said that while 55 bat samples were sent for testing in the second round, the state government has not yet received a report.
Last week, Kerala Health Minister KK Shylaja had met Union Health Minister JP Nadda in New Delhi. Apart from putting forth the need for an AIIMS to be set up in Kerala, the two ministers reportedly also discussed about the Nipah outbreak in Kerala.
Kerala declared Nipah-free
The Kerala government has declared Kerala as Nipah-free, since no fresh cases were reported after June 1.
"A decision to declare both districts as Nipah Virus free was taken by the government as no fresh cases have been reported after June 1," Minister Shylaja was quoted as saying.
In May, after 3 members of a family died in Kozhikode due to a seemingly baffling viral fever, samples sent to the National Institute of Virology confirmed the presence of the Nipah Virus.
A well in the family’s house in Kozhikode had been infested with bats, which many thought was the cause of the initial outbreak. However, after samples came back negative, extensive measures were undertaken to test more bats.