Kerala braces to fight Nipah, fake news on disease

Kochi (IANS) With youth in Kerala testing positive for Nipah virus (NiV), fighting misinformation surrounding its spread and cure has become a major issue for the state government.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan warned of stringent action against those who spread misinformation and urged people to follow the instructions of the health department.

"We are in constant contact with the Union Health Ministry. A team of experts has arrived in Kochi. Their inputs will also include efforts against Nipah outbreak. Together, we overcame the battle against Nipah in 2018," he said and added, "The news of confirmation should not be a reason for panic." 

Last May, the Nipah (NiV) virus spread caused 12 deaths. Reporting of 22 positive cases from Kozhikode and Malappuram districts created a huge scare.

Following the outbreak, experts also warned against fake news on social media claiming a homeopathic pill can protect people from the deadly virus. 

Research by neuroscientist Sumaiya Shaikh, who is associated with fact-checking website Alt News, found that Gelsemium 200 has no effective role in Nipah Virus therapy and such information should not be spread.

"#NipahVirus has returned, is deadly, & has a high rate of mortality. Please do not believe in the misinformation related to homeopathic vaccines/treatments that circulated last year. Gelsemium 200 does not work," Shaikh tweeted on Tuesday.

A fake news video created last year also claimed that the virus spreads through the chicken.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there is no official drug or vaccine for Nipah infection. But experts believe simple hygiene practices like frequent hand washing and cooking food properly before consuming can help people avoid contracting the brain-damaging virus.

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