Experts began collecting droppings of bats from the Vadakkekara and Chittattukara areas of Kochi on Thursday as part of the Nipah surveillance programme.
The places were chosen for sample collection as the disease was confirmed in a youth hailing from the region. The collection of droppings will continue on Friday too.
Besides the bat habitats in the region, experts from the National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases, Bhopal, and Southern Regional Disease Diagnostic Laboratory of the Institute of Animal Health and Veterinary Biologicals, Bengaluru, visited pig and cattle farms in the region on Thursday and collected blood samples of pigs, said K.M. Dileep, District Animal Husbandry Officer, Ernakulam.
Serum samples of bats would have to be collected at a later stage though it was not collected on Thursday. Round-the-year surveillance on bats may have to be put in place as the disease was reported successively for two years, he said.
Meanwhile, the delay in identifying the epicentre of the Nipah outbreak was hampering the specific surveillance plans on susceptible animal populations.
It is through epidemiological investigations that the epicentre of the outbreak is identified. Though experts in animal diseases have reached Kochi following the outbreak, they are currently focussing on general surveillance of pigs and bats, the two species that are likely to serve as the reservoir of the virus.
Currently, the attention is on general surveillance and not collection of samples since the epicentre of the disease is unknown, said a senior forest veterinarian. One cannot go out and randomly collect samples from any area as it may trigger panic among general public. Unless some specific information is available on the epicentre, it would be a futile exercise to collect samples, he said.
Calls at helpline
Meanwhile, people are calling up the 24x7 helpline (0484-2351264) opened by the department in Kochi seeking information on the disease. The callers were keen to know about the animals that were likely to be the reservoirs of the disease. Pigs and bats were the two animals that needed to be observed in this case, said Mr. Dileep.