With 16 people reported dead in two weeks, the spread of Nipah virus has triggered panic in Kerala. The deaths have been reported from Kozhikode and Malappuram districts.

According to local media reports, the deceased include a nurse.

Alarmed by the deaths, the Kerala government has put the state’s health department on high alert. A central team from the Indian Council of Medical Research is arriving at Kozhikode on Monday.

The health department had sent blood and other samples of the deceased to the National Institute of Virology, Pune, to ascertain the nature of the virus. Kerala Health Secretary Rajiv Sadanandan later said they got confirmation from the NIV that the cause of death was Nipah virus (NiV).

READ | What is Nipah virus? Read symptoms and treatment

“A central team of the Indian Council of Medical Research is arriving at Kozhikode tomorrow (Monday). There is no reason for any panic at all, as this can be managed and we have already started our work towards that. There was a similar issue in Bangladesh and it has been managed well. We have already informed the Centre about this,” he said.

On Sunday, Health Minister K K Shylaja chaired a meeting of top health department officials after which Director, Health Service, Dr R L Sarita formed a district-level special task force headed by Kozhikode District Collector U V Jose.

Health officials said a single window system had been put in place to monitor emergency treatment to meet any eventuality.

Dr Sarita said the health department had issued directions to all district medical officers to maintain vigil and forward information in case people with similar symptoms approach them for treatment.

Union health Minister Jagat Prakash Nadda said he had reviewed the situation. “Reviewed the situation of deaths related to nipah virus in Kerala with Secreatry Health. I have directed Director NCDC to visit the district and initiate required steps as warranted by the protocol for the disease in consultation with state government,” he tweeted.