“Why are we being ostracised? What wrong did we do?” asked a sobbing Sindhu, whose husband Rajan succumbed to the deadly Nipha virus a few days ago. So far, the virus has claimed 11 lives in Kerala’s Kozhikode and Malappuram districts. Gradually coming to terms with their huge loss, the family, living in extreme poverty, claimed that health department officials left a plastic bag containing masks and gloves outside their dilapidated house at Kurachundu Vadachira. “They did not even bother to come to our house to give it,” Sindhu said. Rajan is survived by his wife, two young daughters– Sandra and Swathi — and his mother Narayani. “The family is not in touch with the outside world. We are totally cut off. No one is coming to comfort us in our loss,” another relative said.
Several Nipah affected families have complained of being isolated as people apparently fear contracting the rare virus. Even staff at the Perambra Taluk hospital, where some patients were treated and a nurse Lini Puthussery died after contracting the virus on May 21, have complained of being marginalised. The staff have complained to Kozhikode district medical authorities that they are not being allowed to travel in buses and that auto-rickshaws refuse to take them to their workplace. “If we get into buses, people refuse to share seats… auto-rickshaws decline to take us,” they said. There was an instance when passengers of a bus protested and got down after the nurses of the hospital boarded the vehicle. Taking note, the Kerala State Human Rights Commission has sought a report from the district police chief and Kozhikode district medical officer on the “discrimination” being shown to the nurses and asked them to take steps to end it.
There are also reports of electric crematorium staff refusing to perform the last rites of a Nipah affected person. However, Lini’s husband, Sajeesh said health department officials were in touch with them on a daily basis. Blood samples of 15 members of Lini’s family were taken soon after her death and the results are awaited, he told PTI. “We have asked our relatives and neighbours not to come now. There are a lot of them here and we are being looked after,” he said. Sajeesh said his two children, aged 2 and 4 years, do enquire about their mother. They have not been told that she would never come back, he said. Lini, who initially treated members of the Moosa family of Soopykada village, whose four members died of the virus, passed away after being infected by Nipah.
Sajeesh, who works in Bahrain, rushed to Kerala on hearing about her condition. He said though he had gone to the hospital ICU, he could not talk to her. Lini’s touching letter to her husband, shortly before her death, saying she was on her way out, went viral on social media. Sajeesh said he cannot go back to Bahrain now as his two children needed him. The Kerala government has offered him a job and financial assistance of Rs 10 lakh each to the two children.