(AFP) – A deadly virus carried by fruit bats has killed at least five people in southern India, and more than 90 people are in quarantine, a top health official said Tuesday.
The death toll rose from three overnight and authorities ordered emergency measures to control the outbreak.
“We can confirm that five people have died from the Nipah virus,” Kerala state health surveillance officer K.J. Reena told AFP.
Nine people have been admitted to hospital with symptoms resembling those of the virus, which the World Health Organization says is fatal in 70 percent of cases, Reena added. One of the nine has tested positive for Nipah.
“We traced 94 people who had come in contact with the ones who died and they have been quarantined as a precaution,” Reena added.
There is no vaccination for Nipah, which has killed more than 260 people in Malaysia, Bangladesh, and India in outbreaks since 1998.
The virus induces flu-like symptoms that lead to an agonizing encephalitis and coma.
Media reports said 10 people had died in Kerala but officials told AFP the cause of other suspicious deaths was still being studied.
Three members of the same family are among the fatalities. Dead bats were found in a well of the family’s house in Kozhikode district, previously known as Calicut.
Masked health workers sealed off the well with fluorescent nets.
A nursing assistant who had treated the infected persons and was among those who died has been hailed as a hero by authorities.
Lini Puthussery, a mother of two, was cremated even before her family members could bid a final goodbye because of fears the virus could spread.
In a final note she scribbled for her husband in a hospital isolation unit, Puthussery urged her husband to take care of the children.
“I don’t think I will be able to see you again. Sorry. Please take care of our children,” she said, according to the News18 TV network.