The central government on Friday allowed the use of a monoclonal antibody imported from Australia for the treatment of patients infected by the Nipah virus, The Indian Express reported.

Six persons have tested positive for the virus in the current outbreak in Kerala’s Kozhikode district. Two have died and there are four confirmed active cases of the disease.

India has reached out to Australia for more doses of the antibody, Indian Council of Medical Research Rajiv Bahl said on Friday, according to The Hindu. Bahl said that the aim was to contain the spread of Nipah virus as fast as possible because the disease has a high mortality rate.

“The mortality among the infected is very high in Nipah, between 40% and 70%, compared to the mortality in Covid, which was 2% to 3%,” he said at a press conference.

Bahl added that India currently has doses of the monoclonal antibody for only 10 patients and was expecting 20 more doses from Australia. The antibody had been developed in the United States and has passed the first phase of trial. It has been administered to 14 persons globally so far, according to The Hindu.

According to the World Health Organization, the Nipah virus is a “zoonotic illness” transferred from animals such as pigs and fruit bats to humans. The virus can also be caught through human-to-human transmission.

It causes fever and cold-like symptoms in patients and in some cases, the infection can cause encephalitis, which is inflammation of the brain, and myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart.

In the wake of the ongoing outbreak, the Kerala government has declared nine panchayats in Kozhikode district as containment zones. In these areas, only shops selling essential goods will be allowed to function from 7 am to 5 pm. However, no curfew timing has been announced for pharmacies and health centres.

Educational institutions throughout the district will stay closed till Saturday, while all gatherings and functions have been prohibited till September 24.