Bhutanese students studying in India should seek immediate medical attention and update with the education ministry if they experience any signs of Nipah virus, according to an advisory issued by the ministry on May 30. 

The symptoms include breathing difficulties, fever, headache and drowsiness. 

The advisory cautions all Bhutanese students studying in India on the outbreak of Nipah virus in Kerala. 

According to World Health Organisation, Nipah virus has a mortality rate of up to 70 percent and can cause encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain as well as severe respiratory symptoms. 

Records with the Bhutanese Student Associations (BSA) registration show that there are 2,176 students studying in India of which four are in Kerala. Of the total, 1,236 are male and 940 are female students. 

An official with Department of Adult and Higher Education (DAHE) said that the department is monitoring the situation and getting regular updates through the BSA executives. “As per the reports received, all are safe and keeping fine,” he said. “So far there have been no cases of Bhutanese students being affected by the outbreak of Nipah virus.”

The advisory states that Bhutanese students particularly in India should take necessary precautionary measures such as avoiding contact with infected people, eating stale food, eating meat especially pork and fruits. “The Nipah virus, which was first identified in 1999 after an outbreak in Malaysia and Singapore is thought to be transmitted by bats, pigs or other animals to humans,” the advisory states. “Since there is no treatment and cure to this rare and deadly virus and the infection is fast spreading, already claiming 13 lives since its outbreak in Kozhikode district of Kerala.”

It also asks BSA presidents to provide updates on the matter to DAHE on a regular basis. 

DAHE officials said that following the news in the Indian media on the outbreak of Nipah virus, the department has issued three advisories – one on May 23 alerting on the outbreak of virus, another through the Ministry on May 31 advising on the precautionary measures and again yesterday in collaboration with the Ministry of Health for awareness on Nipah virus infection, its causes, symptoms and precautionary measures. “The Department is also in regular contact with the Education Attaché at the Royal Bhutanese Embassy, New Delhi and working together in disseminating awareness to the students.”

Karma Cheki