Kerala Police has asked people to refrain from spreading fake messages on Nipah virus, warning that criminal cases will be registered against such propagators. In a press release, the police said, “Creation of fake or false messages, spreading them to cause panic or public disorder are criminal acts and liable for investigation and prosecution. Those who forward such messages in the social media will also face investigation and prosecution.”
Kerala Health Minister KK Shaylaja had also asked people not to panic and believe what is said on social media. “Only believe what the official channels of the government are telling you,” she said. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said in a Facebook post that it had come to his notice that there was a social media campaign regarding the virus, which was causing panic among the public.
The rumours on social media, especially WhatsApp, have been a major impediment to the process of awareness and dissemination of information in the area, both locals and authorities agree. Some deaths in the area, which have no connection whatsoever to the virus, get attributed to the outbreak and subsequently end up being hyped up among the local population.
Reportedly, a number of fake messages being circulated on social media are asking people not to visit Kerala or not to allow people from Kerala to go to other places. “Some news channels with vested interests pick this up and play it again and again. Yes, it’s a serious situation and we have to be careful. But it’s nothing on the scale that it’s being hyped up as,” Moosa, who has worked in the Gulf for a long time, told The Indian Express earlier. “People are calling us from the Gulf asking if it’s safe to come here. They are canceling their vacations,” he added.
Nipah virus outbreak in northern Kerala has claimed 10 lives so far, while two people diagnosed with the infection are in a critical condition. The Nipah virus infection starts with 3-14 days of fever and headache, followed by drowsiness, disorientation and mental confusion. The acute encephalitis then progresses to coma within 24-48 hours.
Nipah virus, first reported in Malaysia, spreads through fruit bats. There is no vaccine for the infection and the patient can slip into coma within 48 hours.