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'Fruit bats were the source of Nipah'

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THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Though Centre has confirmed that fruit bats were the source of Nipah outbreak in Kozhikode, the state health department is yet to receive official communication in this regard.

Union minister of health JP Nadda is learnt to have communicated Indian Council of Medical Research’s (ICMR) findings to health minister KK Shailaja when she met him in Delhi last week.

Additional chief secretary (health) Rajeev Sadanandan confirmed that Centre had communicated the same to state health officials during the health minister’s visit. “The results said fruit bats were the source of Nipah. But no official communication or report on the findings were received,” he said.

In the first batch, samples from 21 bats were sent for testing; they tested negative for Nipah. But, 55 samples were sent for testing in the second batch and the results have not been revealed.

Hence, state health department officials are clueless about the new development naming fruit bats as the source.

“National institute of virology, national centre for disease control and ICMR had collected samples from Changaroth panchayat in Kozhikode. We haven’t received their test reports. Hence it cannot be confirmed from which samples the source was located,” said an official who was part of the sample collection team from the department. It was entirely done by the central teams, he added.

In the wake of source identification, Sadanandan said ‘preventing bat-to-human transmission will be part of the strategy for dealing with future epidemics’.

Nipah virus had killed 16 people from Kozhikode and Malappuram this year. It began with the death of Changaroth resident Mohammed Sabith on May 5, though it was not confirmed that he died due to Nipah. The infection was diagnosed on May 18 when his brother Mohammed Salih got admitted to a private medical college hospital.

The virus infection was officially confirmed on May 20 in the tests conducted at National Institute of Virology at Pune.

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