Nipah virus: Fear paves way to normality in Kerala

Social-media users ‘have blown the issue out proportion with fake reports and news’

Students wear safety masks as a precautionary measure after the outbreak of ‘Nipah’ virus in Kozhikode, Kerala.


Dubai: Fear and panic are slowly giving way to normality in the deadly-virus hit areas of Kozhikode in the south Indian state of Kerala, India.

Fear gripped this state of about 34 million people last week, soon after three members of a family died after falling prey to the killer virus Nipah.

People wear masks as they wait outside a casualty ward at a hospital in Kozhikode in the southern state of Kerala, India

So far, Nipah has claimed 11 lives in Kerala. Among the 160 samples sent for testing at the virology institute, 13 cases have been tested positive for Nipah, according to reports.

Abdul BariYes, the virus, which has no cure, is still active and the fear lingers, but it has been blown out of proportion by social media users by spreading fake information, Abdul Bari, a Kozhikode-based social worker, told Gulf News over the phone.

To add to it, officials as a precautionary measure closed all nurseries in the district and urged people to refrain from group meetings and gatherings, which did fan the fear, he said.

Nipah virus manifests with a mild fever, but can then progress to a full-blown acute respiratory infection and encephalitis or inflammation of the brain. There is no vaccine for the Nipah virus. The usual treatment is supportive care. 

An advisory issued by state health secretary said travelling to any part of Kerala was safe. But if travellers wished to be extra cautious, they could avoid the four districts Kozhikode, Malappuram, Wayanad and Kannur, it said.

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“It is not an airborne infection, so without coming into contact with an infected person, there is no risk of contracting the disease,” Dr Jazim A K, Assistant professor of Medicine, Government Medical College Manjeri in Malappuram, told Gulf News over the phone.

Lack of awareness is the biggest threat; people spreading unverified reports and fake news are adding fuel to the fire, he said. It is much better now, people are more calm and aware of the situation, the doctor said. 

The rush to hospitals has also come to a minimal in the last two days; also no new cases have been reported, the doctor said.

A member of an NGO cleans a cot outside the casualty ward at a hospital in Kozhikode in Kerala in the southern state of Kerala, India

The health department stepped in fast and took all necessary measure, like creating special wards and isolation units for patients, he said. Also, protective gear were supplied and precautionary measures were taken to curb the disease from spreading.

Dr. JasimInitially, when a health worker died, it also triggered panic among health workers, Dr Jasim said. A nurse, Lini Sajeesh, died while tending to Nipah-virus infected patients.

“We can’t run away, as health workers we have to deal with the problem, come what may and that’s our job,” Dr Jazim said.

People were initially reluctant to visit the houses of the deceased, but now the scenario is changing, said social worker Abdul Bari. “People are travelling from other parts of the country and abroad to Kozhikode, I am sure it will all pass very soon,” he said.

The government has stepped in with full force and the effect is becoming visible.

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