The Kerala health department was put on high alert on Monday morning after the death of three members of a family in Kozhikode due to 'Nipah' virus. Union Minister J P Nadda also directed the Director of National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to visit Kerala's Kozhikode district to assist the state government. "Reviewed the situation of deaths related to Nipah virus in Kerala with Secretary 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," Nadda had said in a tweet. The state health minister KK Shylaja on Sunday had said that the nature of the virus was yet to be ascertained. "The kind of virus that caused the disease has not been ascertained. Blood and other samples of the deceased have been sent to the National Virology Institute, Pune. The results will be made available in a few days," Shylaja had said. What is Nipah virus? Nipah virus (NiV) infection is a disease that broke out in Malaysia and Singapore in 1998 and 1999. It was first seen in domestic pigs. The virus can also affect other domestic animals like, dogs, cats, sheep and goats, and can even be transmitted to humans by coming in close contact with these animals. According to WHO, it is a virus that can cause a future epidemic. Other than Kerala, outbreaks have mostly been recorded in West Bengal of India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Singapore and eastern coast of Australia. The organism which causes Nipah Virus encephalitis is an RNA or Ribonucleic acid virus of the family Paramyxoviridae, genus Henipavirus, and is closely related to Hendra virus. In 2004, an outbreak in Bangladesh was caused by consumption of date palm sap that had been had been exposed to infected fruit bats. Nipah virus signs and symptoms: 1. Infection with Nipah virus is associated with encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). 2. Respiratory illness during the early part of the infection can also be noticed. 3. 3-14 days of persistent fever and headache, drowsiness, disorientation and mental confusion. 4. These signs and symptoms can lead to coma within 24-48 hours. 5. Many even show severe neurological signs like convulsions and pulmonary signs. The symptoms are often mistaken with Japanese Encephalitis. During the outbreak in Malaysia, up to 50 per cent of clinically apparent human cases died. Nipah virus precautions: Since the virus can be transmitted easily, precautions are important for hospital workers in charge of taking care of the infected patients. Precautions should also be taken when submitting and handling laboratory samples, as well as in slaughterhouses. Nipah virus treatment: Treatment is limited to supportive care. There is no specific treatment of the Nipah virus encephalitis, no vaccine either.