NEW DELHI, May 23 (Xinhua) -- A bat-infested well in a house in India's southern state of Kerala's Kozhikode district has been identified as the likely epicenter of the third outbreak of Nipah virus in this country since 2001, health officials said Wednesday.
The deadly virus has so far claimed the lives of 10 people in Kerala's Kozhikode and Mallapuram districts. Apart from the 10 deaths, 94 people have been quarantined inside their homes while nine others are under surveillance in hospitals in the two districts.
"The initial death due to the fatal virus was reported from a house in the Perambra area of the Kozhikode district. A central health team has found several bats housed in that well from where a family living in the house was drawing water," a health official said.
"Some bats have been caught under proper supervision and sent for laboratory examination. The well has been sealed. We suspect these bats to be the cause of the outbreak. The family was likely to get infected with the virus after drinking water from the well," he added.
But this is not the first outbreak of Nipah virus in India. Two other outbreaks of the virus were reported in India in 2001 and 2007, respectively, in the eastern state of West Bengal that shares its border with Bangladesh, claiming the lives of over 50 people.
While 45 people succumbed to the virus when it broke out in Siliguri town in West Bengal, some five people died in the second outbreak in 2007 in the state's Nadia district. In 2007 outbreak, a number of bats were observed hanging from trees around a patient's home which suggested the animals were the source of the virus then.
But health experts are now baffled over the re-emergence of the virus in India.
"We are looking at the causes of the re-emergence of the virus. Specialized team at our strong network of laboratories are trying to find out the causes of outbreak," A.C. Dhariwal of the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme told the media.
"India is witnessing a rapid urbanization and animals and birds including bats are losing their natural habitats. In recent years, humans are animals are coming in contact with each other which is also causing outbreak of diseases such as Nipah," he added.
Nipah virus is an emerging infectious disease that first broke out in a Malaysian village in 1999 and was also named after the same village. It affected domestic animals before humans. The organism that causes the virus is an Ribonucleic acid virus of family Paramyxoviridae.
According to the World Health Organization, between 1998 and 2015, more than 600 cases of Nipah virus human infections were reported. Outbreak of the virus has been reported almost every year in selected districts of Bangladesh.
Health experts say that there is no vaccine yet for the virus, which causes fever and breathlessness in affected patients as initial symptoms, and only intensive care can help an infected patient recover.
"So far, no vaccine has been made to combat the disease, which spreads mostly through direct contact. Human to human contact as well as animal to human contacts have been documented. The virus spreads fast and leads to death in 70 per cent cases," said Delhi-based Dr. N.P. Gupta.
"We hope that proper steps are taken to ensure that the fourth outbreak doesn't happen in India," he added.