How the Nipah virus outbreak devastated a family in a Kerala village
Valachekutti Moosa, 62, has lost three members of his family while he and his son’s fiancée are battling for life after getting infected in Kozhikode district’s Changaroth village between May 5 and 19 from what was then termed as a ‘mystery disease’.
The infection, which since then is believed to have caused 12 deaths in Kerala, has been identified as the Nipah virus infection, a rare disease spreads from animals and has never been reported in the state before.
Moosa, who on Monday was also confirmed to have been infected with the Nipa virus , has lost his sons Mohamed Saliah, 28 and Mohammed Sadiq, 26, and his brother ‘s wife Mariumma, 50. A nurse, Lini, who treated them at a government hospital has died as well.
A collection agent with a small educational institute, Moosa is on life-support with fever and Nipah symptoms. He lost one son to a road accident two years ago.
Among those being treated for the Nipah virus in the state is Atifa, 19, the fiancée of Moosa’s eldest son Saliah, a civil engineer who was about to leave for a job in Qatar. Mariumma had succumbed to the infection on May 19.
“Moosa had asked Saliah to clean the well before he left the country, which he did with the help of his brothers. Little did they know what fate awaited them,” said one of their relatives K Latheef, who runs a small grocery shop in the neighbourhood.
The bats living in Moosa’s well have been identified as the source of the outbreak by National Institute of Virology in Pune and the well has been sealed, along with many others in the neighbourhood .
Fruit bats are considered to be natural hosts of the virus.
Bats are common in this part of Kerala and have never before been identified as a source of infection. Changaroth residents said bats usually seek small cracks and wedges inside wells to beat the summer heat. Some people cover their wells with nets to keep them out, but most don’t bother.
The infection appears to have spared Moosa’s wife Mariyam and son Muthaleef,, who have shown no symptoms of the disease but have been kept under observation for two weeks, according to World Health Organisation protocol.