Previously sent specimens returned negative for Nipah, but experts are still determined to narrow down the source of the outbreak.

Nipah Virus First samples test negative officials yet to pinpoint source of outbreak
news Saturday, May 26, 2018 - 16:30

It was earlier reported that none of the 21 samples sent to the National Institute of High Security Animal, Bhopal returned positive for the Nipah virus, the Kerala Animal Husbandry Department is taking efforts to collect more samples and sent them to the centre to ascertain the likelihood of the bats being the primary host for the Nipah virus outbreak plaguing certain districts of Kerala.

The 21 samples which were sent earlier consisted of three samples from bats, five from goats, five from cattle and eight from pigs, all of which returned negative for the Nipah virus. This news comes as a relief to the people of the Changorath Panchayat in Kozhikode, as it confirms that there is no spread of the virus amongst the livestock in the locality.

Efforts are still on, however, to collect more samples from bats and send them to the National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases, Bhopal.

Bats are nocturnal creatures which are only awake from 5 to 6 pm in the night and 4 to 5 am in the early hours of the morning. The bats move, feed and socialize in the night before returning to their habitats in the morning. Between 4 am to 5 am the bats defecate and samples should ideally be collected during these hours.

Speaking to TNM, Dr N N Sasi, Director of Kerala State Animal Husbandry Department, said, “We tried collecting excretory and urine samples from bats yesterday. We have collected 20 samples so far. More could have been collected yesterday.”

Elaborating on the process of collecting specimens, Dr Sasi said, “We lay down a white plastic sheet under the habitats of bats and wait for their droppings to fall on them. Then we use micropipettes and collect the samples. There was rain contamination yesterday. So we could not collect more samples.”

He further added that the team was targeting a collection of 50 samples by tomorrow which would all be sent to the centre after which it would take a minimum of 48 hours for the results to be out.

Further efforts are underway to collect at least 3 fruit-eating bats alive and send them to the centre. The samples which were previously sent were collected from insect-eating bats that resided in the well of Valachuketti Moosa’s compound. Moosa’s son fell gravely ill after cleaning the well and in the last 21 days the family has lost 4 members to Nipah, with Moosa being the last one to succumb to the infection.

Earlier, Kerala State Health Secretary, Rajeev Sadanandan had spoken to TNM, “From the management point of view, the infection has been contained, we know where the infection started from. Regarding the original source of infection or how the infection happened is an academic area. If there are 1 lakh bats in the area with only 5 of them actually infected, the probability of finding an infected bat out of 1 lakh bats is rare and highly improbable.”

However, he did go on to further add that, “ We have enough epidemiological data to show that bats are the primary source of infection and the secondary host is the domestic animal. We did not have much of a domestic animal involvement. So finding the primary cause will be difficult. And we also know that this virus is very much like the Nipah virus seen in Bangladesh. Both the viruses behaved in the similar ways.”

He highlighted that it has been confirmed that all the people who died due to Nipah have had some contact with the initial family of three who had passed away.

The Health Minister has also appealed to the people to not attack or kill any bat. If people proceed to disturb the bat habitats, the bats will move to other localities. She said experts are on the job to catch and run the tests on the bats. She highlighted that bats are not be feared.

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