The rare Nipah virus infection claimed another life in Kerala on Thursday, taking the death toll to 12 in the state. Moosa Haji, whose two sons Muhammad Salih and Muhammad Sabith are reported to be have been the first victims of the infection, died in Kozhikode on Thursday morning.
Moosa Haji’s family is suspected to be the first to have contracted the disease in Kerala. Locals in Kozhikode contend that the virus was found in a compound that was bought by the family. The locals say that after the family bought the land, Haji’s two sons had gone to clean the well. “It was lying unused for a long time. Apparently, there were some bats inside or bat faeces in the water in the well. It’s not clear whether they drank the water or just cleaned it. But it’s being suspected that the infection started there,” said Prasanth Paloli, who works in a stone quarry.
This is the fourth death in Moosa’s family. Moosa’s sons and a relative Mariumma had died earlier. While two of the deaths have been confirmed due to Nipah, the blood samples of Sabith had not been tested for the virus. However, because he had similar symptoms, the government is suspecting him to have died because of the virus.
The death comes a day after the Kerala government assured that all necessary precautions to contain the outbreak had been taken. It also added that 19 people with similar symptoms have been admitted to various hospitals in Kozhikode and that their samples have been sent for further tests.
In an advisory issued to travellers, the government said travelling to any part of the state was safe. “However, if travellers wish to be extra conscious, they may avoid the districts of Kozhikode, Malappuram, Wayanad and Kannur,” Health Secretary Rajeev Sadanandan said in the advisory.
Also referred to as NiV, the Nipah virus infection has created panic in Kerala. The infection spreads through fruit bats and has no vaccine, and the patient can slip into coma in within 48 hours.
Kerala Health Minister KK Shaylaja said 2,000 Ribavirin tablets, anti-viral medicines, have been brought from Malaysia for treatment of patients with symptoms of Nipah virus infection. Centre has also sent a multi-agency team to probe the incident.
The border states of Kerala are also on alert. While one suspected case was reported from Mangalore in Karnataka, surveillance has been stepped-up in Goa, Telangana and Tamil Nadu.