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Ten Die in India Outbreak of Brain-Damaging Virus, Spurring Rush to Hospitals

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Updated: 05:56 GMT, May 24, 2018 | Published: 05:24 GMT, May 23, 2018 |
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Medics wearing protective gear examine a patient at a hospital in Kozhikode in the southern state of Kerala

A rare virus spread by fruit bats, which can cause flu-like symptoms and brain damage, has killed 10 people in southern India, health officials said on Tuesday (May 22), with at least nine more being treated.

An assistant professor at a regional medical college said that of 18 people screened for the virus, 12 proved positive.

The Indian government dispatched a team of officials from the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to investigate the outbreak and the WHO is in contact with government officials in the affected areas, Henk Bekedam, its India representative, said in a statement.

There is no vaccine for the Nipah virus, which is spread through body fluids and can cause encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain, the World Health Organization (WHO) says. The usual treatment is to provide supportive care.

While the cause of the outbreak is still being investigated, visiting national health officials tied the initial deaths to “many bats” in a well in Kerala from which the victims drew water, the government said.

Infectious disease outbreaks can be a challenge in India, the world’s second most populous country, where infection control and surveillance systems are weak, leading to hundreds of deaths annually from diseases such as mosquito-borne dengue.

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