HYDERABAD: Social media is filled with warnings on Nipah Virus, advising people on what to do and not to do. Express caught up with two city-based chiropterologists who have been studying bats in different parts of India for the past two decades. According to them, there are 14 species of bats that belong Pteropodidae family, of which 4 are of Pteropus genus in India.
Fruit bats of Pteropodidae family, Pteropus genus, are natural host of Nipah virus, says World Health Organisation. Chiropterologist Dr Chelmela Srinivasulu says that while three of the Pteropus genus bats are restricted to Andaman and Nicobar islands, one is commonly found throughout India. These bats are frugivores, meaning they suck the juice out of fruits while leaving the fibre behind.
“It is scientifically proved that bats are reservoirs of viruses that can been fatal to humans. When pigs or other animals eat the fruits which are eaten or spit out by bats, the viruses may still be alive and the animal too becomes a reservoir of the virus. When someone eats the meat of these animals, there is chance of infection,” said Dr Srinivasulu, who is an assistant professor at Department of Zoology, OU. He added that he had, during his surveys, seen non-tribal settlers hunting bats for consumption in insular ecosystems.
“We have seen people hunting bats to substitute animal protein intake.
Also, they believe the bat meat has medicinal properties which helps in curing rheumatism and arthritis, which is not true. Apart from this form of direct contact with the bats, researchers who handle bats can also come into direct contact,” said Dr Srinivasulu recalling that he was bitten around four times when he mishandled bats, as part of research. Another chiropterologist Dr Bhargavi Srinivasulu said that they have started raising awareness among communities not to eat bats.
TS to create separate wards
Urging people not to panic, Telangana Health minister C Laxma Reddy on Tuesday said that they are creating separate wards at Osmania General Hospital, Gandhi Hospital, Fever Hospital and MGM Hospital-Warangal where suspected patients would be isolated. He said that they have contacted National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Manipal Center for Virology and Research (MCVR) and National Institute of Virology (NIV)-Pune, to send samples.
District Health Officials in Mangaluru said they have received two suspected cases of NIPAH virus, one from a government hospital and another from a private hospital, and the samples have been sent for confirmation. The suspected patients are not critical but are being treated in seclusion, with all preventive measures in place, they said. Addressing media persons here on Tuesday, District Health Officer, Dr M Ramakrishna Rao said that between the two cases, one is from Kerala with travel history of visiting Kozhikode, while another is a local person from the city. The samples have been sent to Manipal Centre for Viral Research at Manipal .