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Study finds Dhubri bats positive for Nipah

Guwahati: A study report published in a recent edition of the Indian Journal of Medical Research says bats with nipah virus have been found in Assam's Dhubri and West Bengal's Cooch Behar districts.

During the study, conducted from March till December 2015, 107 Pteropus giganteus bats were captured from Assam and Bengal - 60 from Dhubri, 39 from Cooch Behar and eight from Jalpaiguri district in Bengal. Tissue specimens of the 107 bats were sent to the National Institute of Virology, Pune, which found six bats from Cooch Behar and three from Dhubri positive for nipah virus. Pteropus bats are known to be a natural reservoir for this virus.

Nipah virus infection is a newly emerging zoonosis. In 2001, nipah virus-associated encephalitis outbreak was reported for the first time from Meherpur district, Bangla-desh. Sporadic cases and outbreaks have been reported from various districts of Bangladesh since. Twelve persons died of nipah virus in Kerala in May this year.

"The presence of nipah virus in the bat population in a previously unexplored region is a matter of serious concern. This warrants a survey to determine the presence of the virus among humans, suspected cases and reservoirs (swine and bat) in other states of Northeast," says the report.

A senior official of the Assam health department said so far Assam has not reported any nipah outbreak. "The detection of nipah in bats in Dhubri may be because of proximity of the district to Bangladesh. The bats may have migrated from there. People in Dhubri were screened under the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme after nipah outbreak in Kerala. No one was found infected. So far, no nipah outbreak has been reported in the state," he said.

During the outbreak in Kerala, officials of the Assam health department had said there was no need to panic as the disease was restricted to two districts of Kerala.

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