Bali has stepped up screenings of all tourists, particularly arrivals from India, to stave off a potential outbreak of the deadly Nipah virus amid a jump in visitors from the South Asian nation.
Health officials in the Indonesian resort island said if a passenger was found to have travelled to countries with a history of Nipah virus cases and displays symptoms including high temperatures and an acute respiratory tract infection, they would be sent to hospital for a complete assessment.
Bali’s chief health officer I Nyoman Gede Anom said the heightened measures were rolled out following two deaths from the brain-damaging virus in the south Indian state of Kerala last month.
The virus is transmitted to humans through direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected bats, pigs or other people.
It was first identified in 1999 during an outbreak of illness affecting hog farmers and others in close contact with pigs in Malaysia and Singapore.
That outbreak killed more than 100 people in the two countries.
According to the World Health Organization, Nipah’s symptoms include fever, respiratory distress, headaches and vomiting. There is no treatment or vaccine for Nipah, a disease with a high mortality rate.
The UN health agency said last week that no new cases were reported in Kerala since September 15. The state has seen multiple Nipah flare-ups in the last five years.
Anom said a team of neurologists, surgeons and other specialists had been mobilised to deal with any outbreak, adding Nipah’s long incubation period was a cause for concern.
“We have to be careful because many Indian tourists go to Bali. I’m afraid because there is a certain incubation period where you don’t have a fever at the airport,” he said.
The incubation period for the virus can range from four to 14 days, the WHO says.
Data from the Bali Tourism Service showed the island welcomed more than 3 million foreign travellers, including 288,873 Indians, in the first eight months of the year.
Anom also said Nipa had not yet been detected in Indonesia and advised hospitals and community clinics to follow standard infection control protocols when handling specimens or suspected cases, The Bali Sun reported.