The two “unnatural" deaths reported from Kerala’s Kozhikode district on Monday were caused by the Nipah virus, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya confirmed on Tuesday.
A central team of experts has been sent to Kerala to take stock of the situation and assist the state government in the management of the Nipah virus infection, the health minister further said.
Samples of at least four more people from Kerala have been sent to the National Institute of Virology in Pune to test for the virus, official sources said.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan urged people to “strictly follow the instructions of the Health Department and the Police and fully cooperate with the restrictions".
“Nipah virus infection has been confirmed in Kozhikode district. Two people died due to infection. Of the 4 people whose samples were sent for testing, 2 are Nipah positive and 2 are Nipah negative," he said.
“We are the ones who have resisted and successfully overcome Nipah disease. We should not be afraid, but face this situation with caution. Everyone should be prepared to strictly follow the instructions of the Health Department and the Police and fully cooperate with the restrictions," the chief minister added.
The Kerala health department had on Monday sounded a health alert in Kozhikode district following the two deaths suspected to be due to the Nipah virus infection.
The health department had said two “unnatural" deaths following fever were reported from a private hospital.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, in a Facebook post, said that the government is taking the two deaths seriously and the health department has issued an alert in Kozhikode district.
What is Nipah Virus?
Nipah is a zoonotic virus, which means it first originated in animals and then transferred to humans, among whom it causes a serious respiratory infection and encephalitis, or brain fever.
In keeping with the unofficial tradition of naming a virus after the place where it was first detected, Nipah was named after the village in Malaysia where the first cases of the then-unknown disease were detected in 1998-99.
The natural host of the Nipah virus is considered to be the fruit bat, also known as flying foxes, belonging to the Pteropodidae family. They live in trees and are commonly found throughout South and Southeast Asia in close proximity to “markets, places of worship, schools and tourist spots".