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UAE bans fruit and vegetable imports from Kerala

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has banned imports of fresh vegetables and fruits from Kerala where 14 people have died due to an outbreak of the rare brain-damaging Nipah virus, the Gulf state said on Tuesday 29 May 2018. Ironically Kerala does not produce vegetables and fruits and even its requirement is met from neighboring Tamil Nadu.

Sources said this only meant vegetables and fruits from Tamil Nadu and meant for Gulf countries are routed through the Cochin port. The traders should consider routing the exports though Tuticorin port to avoid the ban on health grounds.

The UAE’s ministry of climate change and environment also notified other local authorities, including the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority and the municipalities of its emirates, to prevent the entry of any fresh produce from Kerala, it said in a statement.

The ministry suspects that fruit bats are the source of the virus. It said it was banning fresh produce, including mangoes, dates and bananas — the bats’ preferred fruits.

Indian health officials have not been able to trace the origin of the Nipah outbreak and have begun a fresh round of tests on fruit bats from Perambra, the suspected epicentre of the infection.

Kerala has sent 116 suspected cases for testing in recent weeks, 15 have been confirmed with the deadly disease and 13 of these people have died, with two patients still undergoing treatment.

There is no vaccine for the virus, which is spread through body fluids and can cause encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says.

Last week, the UAE consulate in Kerala advised travellers to take precautions and follow safety instructions issued by the Indian authorities.

The Gulf state has also banned imports of live animals from South Africa, based on a notification from the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) of the registration of Rift Valley Fever disease, the ministry said.


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