Thiruvananthapuram: “I am almost on my way, take care of our children…” a young nurse in Kerala scribbled in a note for her husband, in a hospital isolation unit for victims of the deadly new Nipah virus. Lini Puthussery, 31, couldn’t see her family one last time. She was cremated quickly on Monday so the infection wouldn’t spread.
Lini had two little children, aged seven and two. She was in the team that treated the first victim of the virus at Perambara hospital in Kozhikode.
“Saji Chetta, I am almost on my way. I don’t think I will be able to see you. Sorry. Take care of our children properly. Our innocent child, take him to the gulf. They shouldn’t be alone like our father. Lots of love…” she wrote in the note that has been widely shared on social media and has moved many to tears.
“Nurse Lini died in our battle against the Nipah virus. She died trying to save patients infected by it. She was just 31 and was a mother of two little kids. If she is not a martyr, I don’t know who is,” tweeted Dr Deepu Sebin, chief executive of DailyRounds, a network of doctors.
Kerala has been put on high alert after the rare Nipah virus claimed ten lives in the state. More deaths with similar symptoms have been reported from the state and the authorities have sent the sample for tests. Also referred to as NiV, the infection spreads through fruit bats.
The Centre has rushed a rapid response team from the National Centre for Disease-Control, National Institute of Virology and Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme to contain the outbreak. More than a hundred samples collected from patients with suspected symptoms have been sent to NIV for confirmation.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan is also closely monitoring the situation. “All efforts are also being made to ensure that more lives are not lost,” Vijayan said, adding that the government was handling the issue with ‘utmost seriousness.’
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said nurse Lini Puthussery’s “selfless service will be remembered”.
The Perambara hospital confirms the nurse was cremated soon after her death, with her family’s consent, and no one could meet her. “We can confirm that five people have died from the Nipah virus,” Kerala state health surveillance officer KJ Reena told news agency AFP.
The three who died earlier were all from the same family — two brothers in their early twenties and a woman relative who had been with them at the hospital. The father of the brothers is reportedly being treated for the virus. Dead bats were found in a well of the family’s home.
About a dozen more people have died after high fever and other symptoms of the virus in Kozhikode and neighbouring Malappuram. Unconfirmed reports suggest two more nurses are admitted to the Kozhikode Medical College hospital with high fever.
The Nipah virus or NiV infection, spread mainly by fruit bats, has symptoms like breathing trouble, brain swelling, fever, headache, drowsiness, disorientation and delirium. A patient can fall into coma within 48 hours. It travels through direct contact with a patient. There is no vaccine for the virus yet, says the World Health Organisation. The main treatment for those infected is “intensive supportive care”, according to the UN health body.
Kerala is on high alert over the infection and two control rooms have been opened in Kozhikode. A central team has also been sent to the district to help the state administration.
There is no vaccination for Nipah which has killed more than 260 people in Malaysia, Bangladesh and India in outbreaks since 1998.