Medical experts have cautioned against the drinking of raw date sap, which is said to be the leading cause of bat-borne Nipah virus infection.
Data suggests that around 70 per cent of patients infected with the Nipah virus die. A report of the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) said 212 among 305 people infected with the virus died in eight years from 2001 to 2019.
“A woman died in Naogaon while another survived among the two Nipah virus infected people at the end of January this year. We are alerting people to avoid drinking raw date juice to remain safe from deadly Nipah virus,” Meerjady Sabrina Flora, Director of the IEDCR, told the daily sun.
Date juice contaminated with infected bat saliva, urine or stool matters enter the body when someone drinks the raw juice. But the virus gets destroyed if the juice is boiled. “Half-eaten fruits by bat may also carry this deadly virus,” she said.
She further said Nipah virus can be tested in the IEDCR and International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b). IEDCR has set up five more surveillance centres for Nipah virus in Rajshahi, Faridpur, Rangpur, Chittagong and Khulna.
“We carry out tests for the encephalitis infection in our surveillance centres round the year,” the IEDCR chief said.
According to a study published in the Journal of Medical Virology in January 2019, in Bangladesh, the first Nipah Virus (NiV) outbreak was reported in April 2001 in a village in Meherpur district of Bangladesh with 13 confirmed cases of Nipah infection and 9 (69.2 per cent) deaths.
Various sporadic cases of infection and NiV encephalitis have been reported from western and north‐western parts of Bangladesh almost annually. These NiV outbreaks were associated with high mortality and pose a serious health threat in Bangladesh due to the highly infectious nature of NiV and poor medical care facilities, the report said.
According to a report of the World Health Organisation (WHO), fourteen districts in Bangladesh have been affected by the Nipah virus. The districts are Gaibandha, Natore, Rajshahi, Naogaon, Rajbari, Pabna, Jhenaidah, Mymensingh, Nilphamari, Chittagong, Kurigram, Kushtia, Magura, and Manikganj.
“The highest spread of Nipah virus infection was found in Natore, Faridpur, Rajbari, Thakurgaon, Tangail and Mymensingh districts of the country,” A S M Alamgir, Senior Scientific Officer of the IEDCR said.
Another report of the WHO published on May 30, 2018, said Nipah virus is believed to have been transmitted by the drinking of Nipah-contaminate raw date palm sap in all these cases. Human Nipah virus infection is an emerging zoonotic disease spread from fruit bats. In the South-East Asia Region, the disease has been reported in Bangladesh and India.
The NiV can also be transmitted through contaminated food or directly between people. In infected people, it causes a range of illnesses from asymptomatic (subclinical) infection to acute respiratory illness and fatal encephalitis.
Human-to-human transmission of Nipah virus has also been reported among family and caregivers of infected patients. During the later outbreaks in Bangladesh and India, Nipah virus spread directly from human-to-human through close contact with people’s secretions and excretions.
Initial signs and symptoms of Nipah virus infection are nonspecific, and the diagnosis is often not suspected at the time of presentation. This can hinder accurate diagnosis and creates challenges in outbreak detection, effective and timely infection control measures, and outbreak response activities.
The WHO report further said there are currently no drugs or vaccines specific for Nipah virus infection. Intensive supportive care is recommended to treat severe respiratory and neurologic complications.