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Tracing source of Nipah virus hits dead end; bats not ruled out completely

Director of Animal Husbandry Dr N N Sasi said the samples of three bats, four goats, five bovines and eight pigs were sent for analysis and all the samples turned negative.

Published: 25th May 2018 07:54 PM  |   Last Updated: 26th May 2018 01:51 AM   |  A+A-

Director of Animal Husbandry said, the three bats sent were insectivorous bats and not fruit bats which are known to carry the virus. (Photo | S.Dinesh)

Express News Service

KOZHIKODE: Bat and other animal samples testing negative for Nipah virus offers a mixed bag for officials involved in containing its spread at Ground Zero.The results indicating the virus has not spread to animals is good news indeed. But that doesn’t completely rule out bats as the source of the deadly virus as the samples sent for testing were only from insectivorous bats which are not known to be its carriers.
“We were not able to send any fruit bat samples for testing. This will be done by taking the help of the Forest Department,” said Dr N N Sasi, director, Animal Husbandry Department.

He rubbished reports that insectivorous bat samples were sent for testing inadvertently.“When animal samples are collected, we need a cross-section to know the extent of the virus’ spread. The insectivorous bat samples were collected as they inhabited a well which was reportedly used by those who were killed by the virus,” he added.

Virus to turn meek?

Meanwhile, health officers have expressed hope that even if fruit bat turns out to be the real culprit, the spread of the virus through the mammal will come down by the end of this month when its breeding season draws to a close.

“Virologists have confirmed to us the virus is the most virulent during the breeding season of bats which happens from December to May. During this period, the virus is ejected through urine, stool and body secretions. The gestation period which follows is usually safe,” said Dr K J Reena, additional director of the Health Services.  

Theories fly thick and fast

With the initial attempt at identifying the source turning futile, many theories have started doing the rounds. The focus has now shifted to the ‘travel history’ of Mohammed Sabith, the first person to die due to the viral infection. A section of the local people claimed Sabith had travelled to Malaysia, where the Nipah virus was first identified, and was deported when he fell sick.However, health experts have ruled out the possibility.

“Had the patient been sent back sick, he would not have been in a condition to even walk due to the viral infection. He would have also infected many people in the course of his journey,” said a top officer with the Health Department.

The officer said Sabith’s family confirmed he was active in plumbing work till a day before showing acute fever symptoms. Moreover, no cases of Nipah infection or related deaths have been reported in Malaysia in the recent past. The official, however, acknowledged that the 23-year-old youth was suffering from peptic ulcers for quite a while.

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