Dying Indian nurse: "Take care of our children"

NEW DELHI — The nurse, with two young children and a husband working overseas, scrawled the words in blue pen as she lay dying in an Indian hospital isolation ward, sick with a rare and deadly virus.

"I think I am almost on my way. I may not be able to see you again. Sorry," Lini Puthusheri wrote her husband in a tangle of English and Malayalam, the main language of the south Indian state of Kerala.

"Take care of our children," wrote Puthusheri, who was infected with Nipah virus while caring for sick patients. She signed it "Lots of love."

She died Monday.

At least 10 people have died of Nipah since an outbreak began earlier this month in Kerala, health officials say, and two more people are in critical condition. There is no vaccine for the virus, 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 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.

Nipah can be spread by fruit bats, pigs and through human-to-human contact. Officials suspect the Kerala outbreak may have begun with bats.

Kerala state health minister K.K. Shylaja told reporters Tuesday that there had been no new 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 with a fever to the hospital in the small town of Perambra.

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

An accountant who works in Bahrain, he had rushed home Sunday as his wife's condition worsened, but was unable to see her because she was being treated in an isolation ward.

Millions of people from Kerala have sought higher wages by working in 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 was first identified during a late 1990s outbreak in Malaysia. Later outbreaks have occurred in Bangladesh and India.

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