In Kerala, the death toll because of the Nipah virus is on the rise.

But relatives of the patients who died because of the virus were too scared to go near the bodies fearing contamination of the deadly virus.

Now the doctors of Kerala are being forced to go beyond their line of duty and perform the last rites of such patients.

Dr RS Gopakumar, Health Officer of Kozhikode corporation, took the responsibility of handling 12 such bodies of patients. Cremation of the patients was done under his supervision.

The 41-year-old Gopakumar said: “I was a pall bearer for three bodies and performed their last rites too.”

Nipah virus has claimed 17 lives in Kerala – 14 in Kozhikode and 3 in neighbouring Malappuram, within the last month.

A 17-year-old boy who died of Nipah, had his mother in the isolation ward for suspected Nipah contamination too. She could not even see her son for one last time, Dr Gopakumar said.

He said “I was saddened that during his last journey there was none of his dear ones to perform his last rites. I did not have to think twice…and decided to perform the rites for the boy as I wanted him to go on his final journey with dignity. It was my duty.”

Family members of another 53-year-old man, who died of Nipah, also did not turn up to claim the body despite they being informed. They refused to cremate the body. The doctors finally had to undertake the cremation responsibilities.

The doctors also assisted the lone husband of a 19-year old woman who had died which was a heart wrenching experience for him.

The woman had allegedly consumed poison and had been brought to the hospital from Karnataka. While she was admitted in the hospital, some patients, who were later found to have tested positive for Nipah, were treated near her bed. However, the woman’s samples were found to be negative later. Yet, fear of her having the virus made her relatives -except her husband, stay away from the funeral.

Extreme care and standing operating procedures laid down by experts of National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) were followed for handling Nipah affected bodies during the cremation and burial as exposure to Nipah virus is highly risky.

Nipah virus is transmitted from human to human and therefore dealing with the bodies requires some measures. The bodies should not be sprayed, washed or protected and personnel handlers of the remains should wear protective equipment such as gloves, gowns, N95 masks, eye protection shield and shoe cover.

Dr Gopakumar said that he had also conducted the funeral of 61-year old Moosa, whose two sons and brother’s wife succumbed to Nipah virus. He added that Moosa’s younger son might have affected by the virus because he might have got in touch with the patient’s body during the last ritual of bathing of the dead body.

A burial for a deceased Nipah virus patient requires special measures. Ait is recommended that the burial be done in a 10-feet pit along with 5 kg of bleaching powder spread inside the pit. The body is also wrapped in an air-tight plastic double body bag and then lowered into the pit.

Dr Gopakumar said “We followed Ebola protocol for the burial.”

The efforts of Dr Gopakumar as praised by Health Minister KK Shylaja in the Kerala Assembly.

(Adapted from