Disease: Nipah virus in South India: Advice for travelers

Nipah virus in South India: Advice for travelers

Medical staff in Kozhikode, southern India, take blood samples from a goat to test for the Nipah virus. photo

© Shijith. K/AP/dpa

The Nipah virus is mainly transmitted by flying foxes. The risk of infection for travelers is classified as low – but the Robert Koch Institute still urges caution.

After the outbreak of the dangerous NipahVirus in the southern Indian state of Kerala, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) gives travelers advice. For example, they should pay attention to possible transmission routes, such as fruits and palm sap contaminated by flying foxes, writes the RKI in a report on Thursday. You should also avoid contact with hospitals and sick people and follow the orders of the local authorities. The RKI currently assesses the risk of coming into contact with the virus or becoming infected as a traveler in Kerala to be low. An import of the virus into Germany cannot be ruled out, but is currently “very unlikely”.

The outbreak area is very limited, the number of cases is low, and there are containment measures, writes the RKI. According to the report, there are, among other things, entry bans for tourists in nine communities in the affected Kozhikode district. “In the other regions of Kerala, the Indian authorities also require tourists to wear mouth and nose protection.” If you develop suspicious symptoms after staying in the affected area, this must be clarified medically. Even if the virus were to be imported, it is very unlikely that the virus would spread within Germany, writes the RKI.

No German case is known yet

An infection with the virus can be symptomless or mild. However, acute respiratory diseases and fatal inflammation of the brain are also possible. There is no vaccination against it. “The mortality rate is very high at 40 – 75 percent,” writes the RKI. The virus is primarily transmitted through fruits contaminated by flying foxes. In the event of close contact, for example via body fluids, transmission from person to person is possible, but also through pigs and other mammals. Outbreaks of the Nipah virus have so far only been described in Asia. According to the RKI, no imported case has ever been reported in Germany.

According to the RKI, a total of six Nipah cases were confirmed in the current outbreak in northern Kerala as of September 19, 2023, including two deaths. This is the fourth Nipah outbreak in Kerala since 2018, when such an infection was first reported there.


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