UAE-based expats from Kerala are worried about their families back home while traders and travellers are exercising precaution after a youth was tested positive for the Nipah virus in the state, according to a media report.
The deadly Nipah virus resurfaced in Kerala with a 23-year-old male college student contracting the brain-damaging disease, a year after it killed 17 people in the state. In all, 311 people from various districts with whom the student from Ernakulam district had interacted were under observation.
Sharjah resident Sridevi Rajendran, who happens to be from the same town as the infected victim, said, “he was in the same school as my son. We are very worried about the situation back home and my son is there as well. Since there is no clarity as to where the virus has originated, people are generally tensed.”
“Large colonies of bats are common in Kerala. Since the virus has been detected, people have become very scared of bats, and there is a general tension in the air. People are always wearing masks,” Rajendran said.
A fruit and vegetable vendor in the UAE, on the other hand, decided to stop importing agricultural products from Kerala until the scare subsides. However, no official ban has been implemented yet.
“We have temporarily stopped the import of fruits and vegetables from Kerala, which make up 25 per cent of our total produce,” said P C Kabeer, founder and CEO of FarmChimp, a company that sells source-traceable produce.
“The ban last year impacted our business deeply. Now, I am predicting that a ban on fruits and vegetables from Kerala could be a possibility if the scare continues,” he was quoted as saying by the Khaleej Times.
Kerala-bound travellers said that they would take “extra precaution”. “As long as I am not having local water or food from outside, I should be okay,” said Anand Rajiv, a marketing professional, who is flying to Kochi.
Rajiv and his family agreed that they would not eat any street food and they would avoid contact with strangers.
Vijayan Kappillil, a chartered accountant based in Dubai, is also travelling to the state to be with his family. However, he said he could feel that the Nipah discussions in the media have been causing panic among people.
Nipah virus can be transmitted to humans from animals (such as bats or pigs), or contaminated foods and can also be transmitted directly from human-to-human. According to the WHO, Nipah virus is a newly emerging disease that can be transmitted from its reservoir (natural wildlife host), the flying foxes (fruit bats), to both animals and humans. Symptoms range from asymptomatic infection, acute respiratory infection (mild, severe), and fatal encephalitis.