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The health ministry is closely monitoring the outbreak of Nipah virus (NiV) in some parts of Kerala in India, according to a notification it issued yesterday. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) had written to the Queensland government in Australia asking it to provide the antibody developed there to test if it can "neutralise" the virus in humans.

"This is not unusual, but the department has sent bat samples for tests as a precautionary measure", said the official, Ramesh Kang.

Mishra said people would be advised to avoid consuming toddy too.

People have also been told to avoid abandoned wells.

The outbreak of the virus infection, which is a newly emerging zoonosis that causes severe disease in both animals and humans, is suspected to be from an unused well which was infested with bats.

It said that Nipah symptoms are not specific and include flu-like illness and hence can be confused with any respiratory illness.

The natural host of the Nipah virus are bats from the Pteropodidae family, but it can be transferred to humans through infected bodily fluids.

Despite, the Union Health Ministry maintaining that the virus outbreak is a localised occurrence and there is no need to panic, fear runs high across the country.

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Their samples were sent to the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, to check the possibilities of the virus, which has been giving jitters to the medical fraternity and the administration in Kerala. Besides, the virus remains an enzootic disease and only a very small proportion of bats secretes the virus.

"They have to let the health workers know that they have visited the Nipah virus affected places", she said.

"The Mohap alerts the people travelling to Kerala to be aware of contracting the infection and advises them to postpone unnecessary travel till the situation is controlled", the Khaleej Times quoted a Ministry statement as saying on Thursday.

The WHO also states that most people make full recoveries from the disease, but 20 percent of survivors face a lifetime of neurological consequences such as seizures and personality changes. He said nipah virus is not carried by mosquitoes.

There is no real treatment but supportive care is given to the affected patients, which means treating the symptoms differently.

Recently 21 samples of pigs and bats were forwarded to Animal Disease Laboratory at the capital city of Madhya Pradesh.

First identified among pig farmers in Malaysia, the disease also surfaced in Siliguri, West Bengal, in 2001 and again in 2007.