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Nipah virus: Fourth member of Kerala family succumbs, toll touches 12

Nipah virus claimed Valachekutti Moosa early on Thursday weeks after his two sons and brother’s wife succumbed in Kerala.

india Updated: May 24, 2018 14:38 IST
Ramesh Babu
Ramesh Babu
Hindustan Times, Kozhikode
Nipah virus,Kerala nipah virus,what is nipah virus
At least 16 people are undergoing treatment after getting affected by Nipah virus in Kerala.(PTI)

A 62-year-old man has become the latest victim of the Nipah virus in Kerala’s Kozhikode and two new cases were confirmed in Malappuram district as the death toll from the rare disease rose to 12, authorities said on Thursday, a day after the Union health ministry said it was able to contain the “highly localised infection”.

Valachekutti Moosa, one of the earliest to seek treatment, died early on Thursday after fighting for his life for more than three weeks in Kozhikode district. He was confirmed to have been infected with the viral disease on Monday and was on life-support.

With his death the family has lost four members, Moosa’s sons — Mohamed Saliah, 28, and Mohammed Sadiq, 26, — and his brother’s 50-year-old wife Mariumma. The fiancée of Moosa’s eldest son Saliah is also in hospital with similar symptoms.

A nurse, Lini, who treated them at a government hospital also succumbed to the viral disease.

The virus that causes high fever, headache and coma in extreme cases is spread by fruit bats. Body fluids can cause human-to-human transmission of Nipah, which has a mortality rate of 70% and has no vaccine.

Isolation, medicines

Out of the 20 affected people in the state, 12 have died and eight infected are being treated in isolation wards and another seven without the Nipah symptoms are under observation, health officials said.

The blood samples of at least 80 people, including the hospital staff and persons who were in direct contact with the dead, have been sent for an examination, they added.

A native of Perambra in Kozhikode, who came to attend a wedding in Kottayam, was admitted in Kottayam Medical College Hospital after he showed some symptoms. He was treated in an isolation ward under strict security as his infection is yet to be confirmed.

Similarly, three others from Karnataka’s Mangaluru who travelled to the Nipah-hit Kerala districts, were also under observation though they had not shown symptoms of the infection.

The state government has called an all-party meeting on Friday to discuss the epidemic outbreak. It has also issued an advisory to travellers to avoid a visit to four north Kerala districts - Kozhikkode, Malappuram, Wayanad and Kannur.

District administrations of Kozhikkode and Malappuram have ordered closing down of all anganwadis, day schools, creches and postponed admissions and examination in all schools and colleges.

The state health department has rushed Ribavirin tablets that were used in Malaysia during the Nipah outbreak to these two districts.

The bats living in Moosa’s well have been identified as the source of the outbreak by National Institute of Virology in Pune and has been sealed, along with many others in the neighbourhood.

Health officials said the results of bat samples sent to Hyderabad for testing will be available on Friday. Though bats are suspected to be the main culprits behind Nipah’s spread, experts are divided over this.

Epidemiologists and virologists are investigating whether the outbreak of Nipah, a zoonotic disease that is usually transmitted to humans from fruit bats, could be the result of human-to-human transmission.

Fear goes viral in north Kerala

At least 40 families have vacated their houses in Kozhikode district’s Changaroth village, after the deaths of the members of the Moosa family. And 50 families left their homes in two villages, Koorachundu and Chakkittapara, on Wednesday.

The worried state health department has started a vigorous campaign to check the exodus. Animal husbandry department has also warned people not to abandon their domesticated animals while leaving their homes. There are reports that some of these animals were starved to death after they were left behind.

Once teeming with patients, bystanders and visitors the Government Taluk Hospital in Perambra looked like a ghost house and all the streets leading to the hospital empty. Even patients at the blood transfusion unit and operation theatres have left the hospital.

At least 1,000 patients came for treatment daily at the Government Taluk Hospital, one of the busiest in north Kerala. Family members of Moosa were first treated here and Lini, the nurse who attended them later contracted the virus and died.

But the 100-odd hospital employees continue to do their job after the strict government order cancelling the leaves of medical staff in the two affected districts.

“I was forced to walk down at least two kilometres in the morning after auto-rickshaw drivers refused to take me to the hospital,” the pharmacist at the hospital said.

Though the health department has opened a 20-bed isolation ward in the hospital, it was kept open as not a single patient is there.

“We will be out of the trauma soon,” hospital superintendent Dr Shamini said.

First Published: May 24, 2018 11:22 IST