Riyadh, June 5: Saudi Arabia has banned frozen and processed fruit and vegetable imports from Kerala amid concerns over the deadly Nipah virus outbreak. The Nipah virus itself can cause encephalitis – a dangerous swelling of the brain – and common symptoms vary from none to elevated fevers, cough, headache, shortness of breath and confusion, the Gulf News reported on Monday.

On May 29, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) banned imports from Kerala. UAE officials announced that 100 tonnes of fruit, vegetables and fresh produce that was to be imported from Kerala was prohibited from entry. A UAE-based health provider, VPS Healthcare, sent a flight to the Kerala government carrying medical supplies that will help the fight against Nipah.

As of date, of the 18 positive cases, 16 have died and the remaining two are recovering well at a Kozhikode hospital while the around 2,000 people, who have reported to have come in contact with the affected, are being monitored.

Union Health Minister JP Nadda said that the Nipah outbreak was a result of “tampering with nature” even as he assured the people that the Centre was closely monitoring the situation. As many as 16 people lost their lives in Kerala due to the outbreak of the virus in May. Colleges and other educational institutions in Kozhikode have been closed till June 12. The Kerala state health department has also issued an advisory to people travelling to the state, urging them to be cautious while visiting Kozhikode, Malappuram, Wayanad and Kannur districts.

Meanwhile, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has announced that the state government will reimburse the medical expense of the Nipah virus affected people. He said the amount allocated to each individual would be based on the report by the District Collector, reported ANI.

Kerala Health Minister KK Shailaja Teacher said, “There won’t be 2nd phase of the outbreak, it is almost under control. But we have to take precautionary measures, we can’t predict before incubation period. Yesterday and today all results from laboratory tested negative. Hope there are no more positive results.”

(With agency inputs)