Indian state claims checking spread of deadly virus

Rare disease spread by fruit bats has killed 11 people so far in Kerala
Indian state claims checking spread of deadly virus

Medical personnel wearing protective suits check patients at the Medical College hospital in Kozhikode, Kerala on May 21. The deadly Nipah virus is mainly carried by fruit bats and has killed at least 11 people in the state. The virus has a 70 percent mortality rate. (Photo by AFP)

India's Kerala state has imposed restrictions on public functions in four northern districts because of a virus spread by fruit bats that has killed 11 people, including a nurse who treated infected people.

Health authorities on May 24 advised travelers to the region to guard against the Nipah virus.

Senior official Rajeev Sadanandan told journalists that the infection was currently linked to only one family and people who came into direct contact with them. Lini Puthuserry, 32, the nurse who succumbed to the infection, had treated a member of the family in a hospital.

The situation was described as being under control.

The restrictions on public functions was described as a precautionary measure.

The rare Nipah virus believed to have spread from fruit bats found in a well in the Kozhikode district.

Health officials said on May 24 that 19 people with infection symptoms are undergoing treatment while 22 have been placed under quarantine. No new cases has been reported since May 23.

The virus outbreak triggered public panic as media reports said it could spread through air.

There is no vaccine against it and the main treatment is intensive supportive care.

District Collector U. V. Jose told ucanews.com that all the hospitals in the district had been "networked" to ensure proper is available and an awareness program on the Nipah virus launched. "People do not know how to deal with the virus as it has appeared for first time in the state," Jose said.

The situation was confounded by self-styled alternative medical practitioners and naturopaths posting unscientific information and people spreading rumors through social media.

Officials of Calicut Diocese, which covers Kozhikode district, have expressed preparedness to deal with the outbreak.

Father Arjun John, secretary to the bishop, said that they were watching the situation and will take steps if needed to alleviate suffering.

The virus was first identified on pig farm Malaysia in 1998 and the infection was named after a local village.

There have been outbreaks in both Bangladesh and India.

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