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Nipah scare pushes several states to issue alerts

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Nipah Virus

New Delhi, May 26 (IANS) Nipah virus may not have spread beyond Kerala but its scare has spread across the country with several states investigating suspicious cases and issuing advisories on precautions and travel to Kerala.

With another death in Kerala on Saturday, the total number of deaths due to Nipah virus has reached 13. The majority of the deaths have been reported from Kozhikode district with some from the nearby Malappuram district in Kerala.

Even as incidence of fresh cases in Kerala has come down, state health authorities claim things are under control and the Union Health Ministry maintains virus outbreak is a localised occurrence and there is no need to panic, fear runs high across the country.

Panic gripped Himachal Pradesh when several bats were found dead at Government Senior Secondary School in Barmapapri in Sirmaur district this week. However, tests at the National Institute of Virology in Pune ruled out that the bats were carrying Nipah virus.

Himachal Pradesh Additional Chief Secretary B.K. Agarwal has advised people not to panic about the Nipah virus and said that all medical colleges in the state are prepared to deal with the situation, if it occurs.

Similarly, in Telangana, two persons, including one who visited Kerala recently, were admitted to hospitals on Friday with suspected Nipah virus infection. The state health authorities without taking any chances have sent their samples to Pune for investigation.

K. Shankar, Director, Institute of Preventive Medicine (IPM), Hyderabad said that people should postpone their plans to visit Kerala in view of the situation. The authorities are conducting awareness campaigns and are also screening people at airport, railway and bus stations.

Telangana Director of Medical Education K. Ramesh Reddy, however, said there was no need for panic as the state had not recorded any confirmed case of Nipah virus.

The Bihar government issued Nipah virus alert on Saturday, asking people to take precautions. An advisory has also been issued to people with the dos and don’ts as preventive measures.

“The government has issued an alert of Nipah virus in view of its outbreak in Kerala,” said health department official R. D. Ranjan. “People have been advised to keep distance from bats and pigs. They have been asked not to consume fruits without washing them.”

Madhya Pradesh issued its advisory on Friday. While saying there was no reason to worry as the virus is generally limited to a place, Health Services Director B.N. Chouhan advised against eating fruits that are fallen on the ground or appear to have animal teeth or claw marks.

Those living in areas with a bat population or where travellers from Kerala are staying should contact the nearest government hospital if any symptoms of Nipah are found, Chouhan said and added the symptoms are headaches, fever, bodyache, cough, problems in breathing, vomiting, diarrhoea, laziness and others.

Nipah virus is transmitted to humans through infected fruit bats, pigs or other Nipah-infected persons.

With test results showing that a particular variety of bats, found in and around Kozhikode and mostly at the worst-affected Perambara town, is not carrying the virus, a special team from Pune will see how best they can take samples from other varieties of bats also found in the district.

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