The deadly Nipah virus yesterday claimed one more life in Kerala, with a 61-year-old man succumbing to the virus, taking the death toll to 11.
The latest victim, V Moosa, was on ventilator support since the past few days. There are totally 14 nipah confirmed cases, of whom 11 have so far lost their lives. Three people are undergoing treatment in various hospitals.
This is the fourth death in Moosa’s family in the last 20 days. Moosa’s sons Mohammed Saliah (28), Mohammed Sadiq (26) and a relative Mariumma had died earlier. While two of the deaths have been confirmed due to Nipah, the blood samples of one of his sons had not been tested for the virus, sources said.
Health officials had also sealed an unused well, believed to be the epicentre of the virus, in the compound of Moosa’s house after it was found to be infested with bats.
Nurse Lini Puthussery, who initially treated members of Moosa’s family at Perambra Taluk hospital in the district, had also died after being infected by the virus.
Of the 11 deaths, 8 are from Kozhikode and 3 from neighbouring Malappuram, an official communication said.
Twenty two persons– 13 from Kozhikode, 6 from Malappuram, 2 from Kottayam and one from Thiruvananthapuram are also suspected to have contracted the virus.
Their blood samples have been sent for testing and results are awaited.
A high-level meeting chaired by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan this morning reviewed the steps taken by the state government to contain the outbreak of Nipah virus. Directions have been given to continue vigil and to strengthen the state’s monitoring mechanism, besides increasing awareness about the virus and strengthening precautionary measure.
A committee led by the chief secretary will monitor the situation continuously. Ribavirin tablets, an anti-viral medicine are being distributed and officials have been asked to send the medicines to all affected areas.
To discuss issues relating to outbreak of the virus, an all-party meeting has also been called at the Kozhikode collectorate tomorrow in which representatives of political parties, MPs and MLAs will participate. Meanwhile, as a precautionary measure, Kozhikode district collector, U V Jose, has restrained conduct of all public functions, including tutions and training classes till May 31.
In view of the collector’s order, the examinations for civil police officers and others being conducted by the Kerala Public Service Commission (KPSC) in Kozhikode on May 26 have been postponed.
Kozhikode district medical authorities have received complaints that the staff of the Perambra taluk hospital, where Lini Puthussery, a nurse had died after she contracted the Nipha virus from some patients she had treated, were facing isolation.
“If they get into buses, people refuse to share seats, autorickshaws decline to take them,” district medical officer said. Due to the virus scare, there are also reports that residents from affected areas were shifting to the houses of their relatives far away. The outbreak of the virus has lent a blow to fruit merchants also for whom the Ramzan season would have been a money spinner.
Fruit traders said people are not buying fruits fearing that they may have been infected by fruit bats, which is suspected to be host of the dreaded virus.
“This is the mango season and we are selling local mangoes which were in good demand until the virus struck,” said a trader. “Now no one is buying fruits. People have stopped visiting even juice shops,” he said.
According to the Kerala Fruits and Merchants Association, there has been a 40 per cent dip in the sales in the state due to the outbreak of virus, while in Kozhikode district alone, where the virus first erupted, there has been a fall of 90 per cent in sales. The Nipha virus is a newly emerging zoonosis that causes severe disease in both animals and humans.
The natural host of the virus is believed to be fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family, Pteropus genus.