Abu Dhabi, May 25: The UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention (Mohap) has asked people to put off unnecessary travel to Kerala where a Nipah virus (NiV) outbreak has claimed 10 lives and at least 40 others have been quarantined. "The Mohap alerts the people travelling to Kerala to be aware of contracting the infection and advises them to postpone unnecessary travel till the situation is controlled," the Khaleej Times quoted a Ministry statement as saying on Thursday.
"The Ministry works with its strategic partners to assess the risk of importation of Nipah cases to the country and put the necessary control measures. Also, Mohap is in continuous coordination with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to implement the global recommendations," it added.
Dubai-based Emirates airlines said that they were monitoring the situation closely. "With regards to preventive or other measures, we will take guidance from the WHO and other international bodies. At this time, there are no recommended actions for airlines," it said. The WHO has not issued any specific advice to countries that have not been affected by the Nipah but has asked them to enhance the level of preparedness.
Among the advisories given, the world body has advised countries to enhance surveillance at healthcare facilities including at points of entry and give case definitions among healthcare workers. It said that Nipah symptoms are not specific and include flu-like illness and hence can be confused with any respiratory illness.
Nipah was first detected in Malaysia in 1998, followed by Bangladesh in 2001 and annual outbreaks have occurred in that country since, with the disease also occurring periodically in eastern India, making it the third country. The fourth country reporting Nipah virus infection is the Philippines. The natural host of the virus is fruit bats. Human infections can result from contacts with infected pigs. Also, humans become infected with Nipah as a result of consuming food products contaminated by secretions of infected fruit bats. Human-to-human transmission has also been documented.