Doctors and health officials said on Monday that there was no immediate threat of the deadly Nipah virus (KiVV) in Kashmir, but advised people to take precautions.
The Virology Department of the Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) has published an information leaflet for physicians and masses on NiV following the death of the virus in the southern Indian state of Kerala.
Prof. Dalip K Kakru, head of the virology department of SKIMS, rejected the possibility of NiV-infected tourists reaching Kashmir.
"There is little chance that a person infected with the virus will travel for tourist purposes, as the infected people very soon become very ill," he said.
Other health officials also claimed that NiV was "not a threat" in Kashmir, and that there was no need to give a hint.
Prof. Parvaiz A Koul, head of the Department of Internal Medicine at SKIMS, said that concerns over the consumption of dates and other fruits that spread the virus are "unfounded".
"It's the date palm juice and not the dates associated with NiV," said Prof. Koul, adding that there is little chance of bats being bitten by fruit.
Prof. Koul said there was no evidence that the virus even spread to Kerala's Neibungsstaat, and the outbreak was confined to only two districts of the southern state.
"In such a scenario, there is no need to panic in Kashmir, but it is advisable that people take precautions, such as avoiding raw fruits and vegetables and maintaining hygiene," said Prof. Koul (1
It is believed that the natural host of the Nipah virus is a fruit bat. Typical symptoms of an infected person include fever, headache, and vomiting that last for about two weeks before the condition of an infected person worsens.
Kashmir is being visited as a destination by people from different states including Kerala, reports of Nipah deaths sparked fears among people.
The state epidemiologist, Dr. med. SM Kadri said that no travel restrictions were imposed on people from Kerala, as Nipah cases were limited to "very small pockets".
"People should not be afraid, but ensure vigilance," said Dr. Kadri.
He said that fruit bitten by birds must be avoided and all fruits thoroughly washed before eating.
"These are common hygiene protocols that must be followed each time," he said.
Professor S Saleem Khan said that the concern over NiV in Kashmir was not fact-based.
"We have no fruit bats in Kashmir and no case was reported outside Kerala," he said.
"We should not press the panic button unnecessarily."
State health officials said that they kept a close eye on the situation and, if necessary, started a surveillance system for tourists at the airport and other entry points.
"There is no reason to panic now, we are aware of the situation and monitor the trends," said DrSaleemurRehman, Director of Health Services in Kashmir.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has also made it clear that the NiV disease is not a "major outbreak".
"The efforts made so far to stem the disease have been fruitful, as the disease has not spread to new areas," says a government statement.