Valley doctors mitigate Nipah Virus fear

Doctors and health authorities Monday said there was no immediate threat of the deadly Nipah Virus (NiV) in Kashmir, but advised people to take precautions.
The virology division of Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) has issued an awareness leaflet for medics and masses about NiV following deaths caused by the virus in the south Indian state of Kerala.
Prof Dalip K Kakru, who heads SKIMS virology division, dismissed the possibility of NiV infected tourists reaching Kashmir.
“There are minimal chances of a person infected with the virus travelling for tourism purposes as the infected people get very sick, very soon,” he said.
Other health officials also maintained that NiV was “not a threat presently” in Kashmir and that there was no need to issue an advisory.
Prof Parvaiz A Koul, head department of internal medicine at SKIMS said that apprehensions about consumption of dates and other fruits spreading the virus were “unfounded”.
“It is the date palm sap and not dates that has been associated with NiV,” Prof Koul said, adding there were little chances of a fruit bitten by bats being supplied.
Prof Koul said there was no evidence of the virus spreading to even the neibouring states of Kerala, and that the outbreak was confined to just two districts of the southern state.
“In such a scenario there is no need to panic in Kashmir but it is advisable that people should take precautions like avoiding raw fruits and vegetables and maintaining hygiene,” Prof Koul said, adding it was not proved the infection was caused by fruit bat in Kerala.
The virus has so far killed at least 14 people in two districts of Kerala creating panic across different states including J&K.
The natural host of Nipah virus is believed to be fruit bat. The usual symptoms for an infected person include fever, headache and vomiting which last for around two weeks before condition of an infected person starts to deteriorate.
Kashmir being tourist destination visited by people from different states including Kerala, reports of Nipah deaths triggered anxiety among the people.
The state epidemiologist, Dr SM Kadri said no travel restrictions were imposed on people from Kerala as Nipah cases were restricted to “very small pockets”.
“People should not be scared but ensure vigilance,” DrKadri said.
He said fruits bitten by birds must be avoided and all fruits be washed properly before eating.
“These are common hygiene protocols that need to be followed every time,” he said.
At Government Medical College Srinagar’s community medicine department, Prof S Saleem Khan said that concerns about NiV in Kashmir were not based on facts.
“In Kashmir, we have no fruit bats. And no case has been reported outside of Kerala,” he said.
“We should not press panic button unnecessarily.”
State health officials said they were keeping a “close watch” on the situation and if needed surveillance system for tourists will be started at airport and other entry points.
“As of now there is no need to panic. We are aware of the situation and monitoring the trends,” said DrSaleemurRehman, Director health Services Kashmir.
Meanwhile, Union ministry of health and family welfare has also clarified that NiV disease was not a “major outbreak”.
“The efforts taken so far for containment of the disease have been fruitful as the disease has not spread to new areas,” a government statement said.