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India is hunting for the origin of the mysterious brain-damaging virus



By Substrate Patnaik and D. Jose

MUMBAI / KOCHI (Reuters) ̵

1; India began a new round of tests to trace the origin of a rare brain-damaging virus that killed 13 people, a health official said Monday, as first tests on animals suspected to carry the Nipah virus, showed no signs of the disease.

All animal samples, including those from bats, cattle, goats and pigs from the southern state of Kerala, sent to the National Institute of High Safety Animal Diseases, in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, were negative for Nipah, animal husbandry officer A. Mohandas said.

The department now collects samples of fruit bats from Perambra, the suspected epicenter of the infection and nearby areas, Mohandas said

Regardless, the tests against dead bats in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh were negative for Nipah, an official said.

The dead bats were discovered on the roof of a school and had last week released a new Nipah fright.

Out of the 116 suspicious cases sent to the test in recent weeks, 15 have been confirmed as Nipah, the Kerala government said Monday at its website http://bit.ly/2GUSi3T.

Thirteen of these 15 people have died and two died

The youngest victim was a 26-year-old rickshaw driver from Kerala's Kozhikode district who died on the weekend, hospital officials told Reuters.

So far, no confirmed cases of the virus have been found outside Kerala, despite the fears it has spread. Some neighboring countries, including Maharashtra, Telangana and Karnataka, have sent samples to examine individuals who have reported Nipah-like symptoms in recent days.

There is no vaccine against the virus that is spread by body fluids and can cause encephalitis. or an inflammation of the brain, says the World Health Organization (WHO).

The usual treatment is a supportive care.

Outbreaks of infectious diseases can be an infection control in India, the second most populous country in the world, and surveillance systems are weak, leading to hundreds of deaths annually from diseases such as mosquito-borne dengue.

The Epidemic Prevention Innovation Association (CEPI) said last week that Profectus BioSciences and Emergent BioSolutions would receive up to $ 25 million to work on a vaccine against Nipah virus.

(Subtray Patnaik reports in Mumbai and D. Jose in Kochi, edited by Euan Rocha, Darren Schüttler)


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