Kerala’s Nipah virus outbreak claims 14 deaths, 16 confirmed cases and 12 suspected cases so far. This outbreak has impacted exports of fresh fruit and vegetables from the state.
The import ban has come from United Arab Emirates’ (UAE). The UAE ministry of climate change and environment has issued a statement pointing out that the decision to ban the import of fruits from the southern Indian state was based on the information published on the World Health Organization (WHO) website regarding the registration of a Nipah virus outbreak.
“Preliminary information indicates that the main host of the disease is the fruit bat, where the virus is transmitted through secretions from the bat to the fruit that it feeds on or touches,” it added.
The statement read, “Mangoes, dates and bananas are the bat’s most preferred fruit. There have been cases of transmission of the disease among humans and between humans and animals as well, and based on Federal Law Number 10 of 2015 on food safety and through its management of the fast food alert system and in order to take the necessary precautionary measures, the ministry has banned the imports of fresh vegetables and fruits from the state of Kerala in the Republic of India and issued a circular to the concerned local authorities, including the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority and the municipalities of Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah, to prevent the entry of all kinds of fresh vegetables and fruits from Kerala.”
The WHO website, meanwhile, stated that outbreak of the NiV disease was reported in Kozhikode district of Kerala. This was the first NiV outbreak in South India. Within nine days, there were 14 deaths, 16 confirmed cases and 12 suspected cases. The two most affected districts were Kozhikode and Mallapuram. Also many parts and cities of India including Kolkata, following a suspected death, and Hyderabad are on alert.
A multi-disciplinary team led by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Government of India, is in Kerala to respond to the outbreak. “WHO is providing technical support to the Government of India as needed,” said the statement by the United Nations agency.
Following the directions of J P Nadda, health minister, Government of India, the multi-disciplinary team is constantly reviewing the situation of the Nipah virus disease in the southern state.
The Central team held meetings with the district collectors and the medical and para-medical staff of the hospitals. The health ministry, in a statement, said that the efforts taken so far to contain the disease have been fruitful, as the disease had not spread to new areas.
Asked whether FSSAI were to issue any advisory into the matter, Ashish Bahuguna, its chairman, said that the health ministry was making an intervention into the subject, and India’s apex food regulator had no role to play.
Last year, the UAE emerged as the largest importer of Indian mangoes, with a share of over 50 per cent of the total mango exports from the country.
According to the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), mangoes worth approximately $37.48 million were exported to the UAE in 2016-17.
The UAE also ranked number one in the import of other fresh fruits from India. Last fiscal, it imported other fresh fruits worth approximately $88 million.
When quizzed, APEDA officials, however, declined the impact of the ban on fresh fruits from Kerala.
They stated that some more time was needed to assess the impact and they opined that the ban would not last long.