Nurse killed by deadly virus during Indian outbreak

A nurse caring for patients infected with a deadly virus has died from the disease during an outbreak in south India, officials said Tuesday.

The 31-year-old nurse left behind two young children, a husband who works overseas and a letter that she wrote in the hours before her death.

“I think I am almost on my way. I may not be able to see you again. Sorry,” Lini Puthusheri wrote her husband Sajeesh, who shared the letter with reporters. “Take care of our children.” She wrote the letter in a combination of English and Malayalam, the main language of Kerala, signing it with “Lots of love.”

There is no vaccine for Nipah, which can cause raging fevers, convulsions and vomiting, and kills up to 75 percent of people who come down with it. The only treatment is supportive care to control complications and keep patients comfortable.

At least eight people who have had contact with the sick are being kept in isolation, in their homes, so their conditions can be monitored, officials say.

Kerala state health minister K.K. Shylaja told reporters Tuesday that 10 people had died of Nipah virus and two more are in critical condition. She said there had been no fresh cases of Nipah, though it was not immediately clear when the last case was reported.

Puthusheri treated one of the first Nipah patients, Mohammed Sadik, who was admitted earlier in May with a fever to the hospital in the small town of Perambra.

“She was very much disturbed by the death of Sadik,” Sajeesh Puthusheri told The Hindu newspaper. “She developed fever a day or two after he passed away.”

Sajeesh Puthusheri, an accountant working in Bahrain, rushed home Sunday as his wife’s condition worsened, but he was unable to see her because she was being treated in an isolation ward. She died Monday.

Millions of people from Kerala have sought higher wages by working in various Persian Gulf countries, returning home only on vacations.

Fear of the disease has swept Kerala, even as officials insist the situation is under control.

Some ambulance drivers refused to take the nurse’s body to be cremated, The Hindu reported.

“A few drivers did not want to carry the body to the crematorium even though we told them that they would not have to touch it,” a relative told the newspaper. Eventually, police helped have the body transported.

Nipah, which was first identified during a late 1990s outbreak in Malaysia, can be spread by fruit bats, pigs and through human-to-human contact. Later outbreaks have occurred in Bangladesh and India.

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