Its latest prey turned out to be an 11-month-old baby in Chittagong, where it struck for the first time since its presence in Bangladesh starting 2001.
Dr M Mushtuq Husain, Principal Scientific Officer of the government’s disease monitoring arm Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), told bdnew24.com on Friday that their lab test confirmed the baby was killed by nipah.
She was shifted from her residence Fatikchari to the Chittagong Medical College Hospital where she died on Jan 29.
With the latest death, the toll from nipah this year has gone up to nine from 12 infections. The usual fatality rate of the virus is close to 80 percent.
“We can’t say now how she got the virus. We are sending our team to investigate it. But earlier we found an eight-month-old baby infected and she was fed raw date sap with spoon,” Husain said referring to the Natore cases where mother died leaving the child critically ill.
He said their previous investigations found the presence of the virus in the bat population of Chittagong region, but there was no human infection.
The virus that infects a person only after drinking raw date sap and later can pass on to other people through contact is a major cause of public health concern in Bangladesh, as it breaks out every year during Jan-Apr.
Drinking raw date or palm sap in the morning is an age-old practice in Bangladesh, especially in rural areas.
Though nipah was first detected in Malaysia in 1998, at present Bangladesh is the only country in the world that reports the disease.
But the presence of the virus in newer places this year appeared as a challenge for the government to hunt it down.
Earlier, it heightened its vigilance and awareness campaign in the prevalent 21 districts, mostly northern districts, after witnessing an ‘unusual spike’ in this year’s infections that began with a new district Bhaluka, near Dhaka.
A family in Dhaka brought raw date sap from Bhaluka and drank that killed their minor boy and leaving the father critically ill. The father survived after intensive care in a sophisticated facility.
An ICDDR,B study using infrared cameras found that fruit bats perch on the jars, put up on trees to collect the sap, and try to drink the juice. They also urinate in the pot.
The Pteropus bats’ saliva and urine carry the virus. But it gets destroyed if the sap is boiled. The virus is killed at 70 degrees Celsius temperature.
“Our campaigns are going on in endemic zones. Besides, we are advertising in newspapers to carry the message across the country against drinking raw date sap.”
“There is no way to reduce the risk unless we change our behaviour which is very hard,” Husain, also the Head of Department of Medical Social Science of IEDCR, said.bdnews24.com