Last rites of Nipah victims performed by Kerala doctor as relatives fear to contact deadly virus

As the relatives stay away fearing to contact Nipah virus, Kozhikode Corporation’s Health Officer Dr RS Gopakumar performed the last rites of 12 Nipah victims under his supervision

The Hush Post: When the relatives and close friends of some Nipah victims turned away from performing their last rites fearing to contact the deadly virus, a doctor in Kozhikode district of  Kerala took the responsibility of taking the responsibility of handling the bodies of 12 Nipah victims, whose last rites were performed under his supervision.

Kozhikode Corporation’s Health Officer Dr RS Gopakumar took this responsibility as the close relatives of those died due to Nipah virus stayed away fearing to contact the deadly virus. “I was a pallbearer for 3 bodies and performed their last rites too,” Dr Gopakumar was quoted as saying in a report.

Nipah virus has claimed 17 lives — 14 in Kozhikode and 3 in neighbouring Malappuram since its outbreak in May, the report said.

Dr Gopakumar said he performed the last rites of a 17-year-old boy who died of Nipah as his mother was in the isolation ward for suspected virus infection.

The woman could not even see her son for one last time and permitted Dr Gopakumar to perform her son’s last rites. “I was saddened that during his last journey there were none of his dear ones to perform last rites. I did not have to think twice… and I decided to perform all Hindu rites for the boy as I wanted him to go on his final journey with all the dignity. It was my duty…,” Dr Gopakumar was quoted as saying.

After relatives of a 53-year-old man, who died of Nipah, informed him that they were not participating in the funeral, he conducted the final rites for him too.

Another last journey which tugged his heart was when he assisted the husband of a 19-year-old woman.

The woman, who had allegedly consumed poison, had been brought to a hospital here from Karnataka when some persons who were later found to be positive for Nipah, were treated near her bed. However, the woman’s samples were found to be negative later, it was reported.

Of the 12 bodies, 8 were Nipah positive cases and four were suspected cases which later turned out to be negative. Patients’ relatives performed rites for nine of the bodies, the report said.

There were situations when the staff in Kozhikode crematorium refused to perform the last rites of some Nipah victims due to fear. The natural host of the virus is believed to be fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family, Pteropus genus.

The issue was discussed by the Kerala Assembly yesterday and Health minister, KK Shylaja was all praise for the selfless service of Dr Gopakumar.

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