Nipah virus outbreak: Is it safe to visit Kerala?
THE sudden outbreak of the Nipah virus in the state of Kerala, India has discouraged travelers from visiting the area.
Known for its beautiful palm-lined backwaters and tropical climate, Kerala offers something unique to the rest of India with its tranquil settings and old-style of life.
The state tourism sector was hoping for a record number of domestic and foreign tourists in the coming months.
However, the Nipah virus is damaging the area’s reputation.
What is the Nipah virus?
— Mohanlal (@Mohanlal) May 22, 2018
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Nipah virus is a newly emerging zoonosis (a disease transmitted from animals to humans).
It causes severe disease in both animals and humans and kills quickly.
The most recent outbreak in Kerala is thought to have been started by fruit bats, but tests are still ongoing.
Scientists have suggested the virus can be transmitted through the air and by coming into close contact with an infected body.
Symptoms present themselves in high fevers, disorientation, respiratory difficulties, nausea, dizziness, drowsiness and even falling into a coma.
As of yet, there is no known cure for the virus. If diagnosed, the patient will at best receive a high level of medical support, but there is no promise of recovery.
What officials are saying
So far there have been 14 fatalities reported from the recent outbreak, with a few more said to have been infected.
According to The Economic India Times, cancelations across the region are now a daily occurrence with group and family vacations canceling the most.
“Tourists are saying that they cannot take [the] risk. They are also asking if any assurance can be given for their safety. They believe that the entire state is facing a threat from the Nipah virus,” Kochi-based tour operator Rajesh Pillai told The Economic India Times.
But are the cancellations necessary?
The Kerala government has issued an advisory asking travelers to avoid visiting four northern districts in the state: Kozhikode, Malappuram, Wayanad, and Kannur.
Should you be worried?
Gateway Malabar managing director Jihad Hussain told The Economic India Times, “There is no problem here [Kerala]. Everyone’s going about their lives as usual, with many now getting ready for iftar.”
Bottom line: you shouldn’t be worried, but you should be cautious. Don’t travel to the affected areas.
Also, don’t eat fruit picked up from the ground or any that could have been bitten by a fruit bat.
The virus is also transmitted via pigs and as the cause of the outbreak has not yet been determined, it would be best to avoid eating any pork in the Kerala state as well.
If you have already booked a trip to Kerala, contact your tour operator for further advice and keep up to date with the local news.