Kerala: Nipah virus hampers tourism, locals blame media

Kochi (Kerala): Tourism in Kerala is bearing the brunt of the sudden occurrence of Nipah virus in a section of the state. However, locals and tourists believe that the situation has been falsely portrayed by the media.

News of the presence of the virus was first reported from Kozhikode earlier this week, and now, at least 12 deaths have been confirmed to have taken place due to the “rare and deadly” virus. As the death toll is rising each day, a wave of panic has gripped the state, since the infection spreads through human contact.

However, locals in Kochi believe that unnecessary panic has been spread through various sections of the media, which in turn, is disrupting tourism to the region.

“In Northern India, it is the holiday season now, due to which we get many tourists from there. However, the news of the Nipah virus has led to almost 50 to 60 per cent cancellation of bookings. We are also getting inquiries from Gulf countries, as the Arab holiday season is approaching. It has created unnecessary panic,” Tourism Profession Club Secretary Paul told ANI.

Echoing a similar thought, Ajay Kumar, a local tourist guide said false portrayal of the situation is hampering his business.

“In Kochi, there is no need to panic as the area is safe from the virus. It (Nipah) is only in a small section of Kozhikode. However, media is portraying it in such a way that tourists believe the whole of Kerala is affected by the disease. I have lost business due to this, as travelers are cancelling trips booked even for the next month,” he added.

However, tourists in the area, although unfazed by the virus, are taking a number of precautionary measures in the wake of the disease.

“We are trying to eat home cooked food for our own safety. We are avoiding excessive amounts of hotel food and fruits for now. We are also planning to avoid visiting Kozhikode at this time,” a tourist said.
So far, the virus has claimed 12 lives in Kerala, following which the state’s health department issued an advisory for people traveling to the state, and urged travelers to be extra cautious while visiting Kozhikode, Malappuram, Wayanad and Kannur districts.

A similar note of caution has also been issued by the Himachal Pradesh health ministry on Thursday after more than 18 dead bats were discovered on Wednesday in the premises of a government school in Nahan, triggering a panic among locals.

For those unversed, Nipah virus, spread by fruit bats, causes communicable disease and is fatal for both animals and humans.

The symptoms of the disease include fever, headache, drowsiness, respiratory illness, disorientation and mental confusion.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), these signs and symptoms can progress to coma within 24-48 hours. (ANI)