Avoid travelling to Nipah-hit areas

MUSCAT, May 30 – The Ministry of Health (MoH) has urged all citizens and residents to avoid travelling to Kozhikode and Malappuram in Kerala, India, due to Nipah virus outbreak. The ministry has also called upon those coming from these areas to visit hospitals if they show symptoms of Nipah within three weeks of their return. Fever and headache, muscle aches, sore throat, vomiting, dizziness and/or pneumonia are some of the symptoms. There is no vaccination for the virus, which induces flu-like symptoms that lead to brain damage and coma and has a 70 per cent mortality rate.

The ministry said the possibility of transmission of Nipah through fruits imported from India is very slight and nearly absent. It said all fruits must be washed before consumption. In an early response to the situation, the ministry has prepared a guidebook on dealing with suspected cases of the epidemic and circulated it to all health institutions in the Sultanate. It also provided laboratory reagents used in diagnosing the disease. Furthermore, the ministry affirmed that all citizens and residents must take the information from its official sources or contact the ministry via the MoH Contact Center at (24441999) in case of any queries on Nipah.

Nipah virus is usually transmitted through fruit bats. Officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries said that the government is yet to decide on banning fruits or vegetables from Kerala. Egypt and the UAE have already banned import of vegetables and fruits from the affected region. Based on the current data and continuous cooperation between the MoH, WHO, and the Ministry of Health in India, the directorate has assessed the risk of spread of infection outside Kerala. As for the Sultanate, the risk is in the travel movement from and to the affected areas.

Zainab al Nassri