Thursday, 29 September, 2022

Nipah Virus

Doctors warn against drinking raw date juice

Drinking raw date juice is main cause behind the outbreak of highly infectious Nipah disease in Bangladesh as the virus has spread in 32 districts across the country.

However, the Nipah virus situation of the country remained ‘stable’ last year but the health experts warned that it may spread again if people drink raw date juice this winter.

 “Nipah virus is highly risky infectious disease in Bangladesh. The fatality rate in the disease has already crossed 70 percent here. We have to remain alert about the virus during this winter,” Prof Dr Tahmina Shirin, Director of Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), told the Daily Sun.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said Nipah virus can be transmitted to humans from animals (such as bats or pigs), or contaminated foods and can also be transmitted directly from human-to-human. Fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family are the natural host of Nipah virus.

“There is no treatment or vaccine available for either people or animals. The primary treatment for humans is supportive care,” it added.

The WHO said in subsequent outbreaks in Bangladesh and India, consumption of fruits or fruit products (such as raw date palm juice) contaminated with urine or saliva from infected fruit bats was the most likely source of infection.

It further said 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.

While the country is still suffering from the coronavirus pandemic, and preparing for a possible another wave of the infection, the threat of a Nipah virus (NiV) epidemic is looming large over it.    

The Nipah virus that caused repeated outbreaks in the country, with a high fatality rate, has the possibility of spreading not only in the Nipah belt but also in other areas of the country, said a study.

The fatality rate of Nipah virus infection in Bangladesh is now more than 70 percent as many people of the country are not keeping alert to the deadly virus yet, experts said.

According to statistics of the IEDCR, 322 people were infected with Nipah virus in Bangladesh from 2001 to 2021 while 226 of them died from the virus.

The IEDCR data further said two Nipah virus cases were reported in 2021 while no death was reported.

Health experts said the raw 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.

A report of IEDCR said more than 31 districts in Bangladesh have been affected by the Nipah virus. Most of the districts are in the northern region.

“The highest spread of Nipah virus infection was found in Natore, Faridpur, Rajbari, Thakurgaon and Tangail,” Dr ASM Alamgir, Principal Scientific Officer of the IEDCR, said.

Mentioning that the WHO has already declared the Nipah virus as a pandemic potential virus, he advised all to remain alert and to avoid raw date juice this winter.

Dr ASM Alamgir, also a noted virologist of the country further said people should avoid drinking the rate date juice and all social gatherings like date juice fair in winter also should be avoided to prevent Nipah.

“The direct connection of raw date juice has been found in most of the Nipah cases detected in the country till the date. It has already spread to more than 31 districts and may spread to other areas anytime,” he added.

The IEDCR has urged social and cultural organisations to refrain from arranging date juice related festivals, since bats usually drink it from receptacles at night while it is being collected from the date-palm tree, during this winter.

A study entitled “Nipah virus dynamics in bats and implications for spillover to humans” finds that bats carry the Nipah virus all over the country and may shed the virus at any time of the year.

Claiming that the strain of the virus has changed over the years, the study says Nipah virus can cause another epidemic in Bangladesh, India and other South Asian countries.

Dr Alamgir said bats now move everywhere in the country and so the Nipah virus is no longer confined to any specific area called as Nipah belt. “Precaution and awareness are the keys to preventing and controlling this disease,” he said.