Bangladesh reports first death from Nipah virus this year

DHAKA (Reuters) – Bangladesh reported on Monday its first fatality this year from the brain-damaging Nipah virus when a man died after drinking raw date juice.

The virus, transmitted to humans through contact with bodily fluids of infected bats, pigs or other people, was first identified in 1999 during an outbreak affecting farmers and others in contact with pigs in Malaysia.

Since then it has led to outbreaks in Bangladesh, India and Singapore, killing more than 160 people in Bangladesh.

The nation’s first case of 2024 was reported in Manikganj, some 50 km from the capital Dhaka, said Tahmina Shirin, director of the health ministry’s Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR).

“The sample was sent for a laboratory test and it turned positive. We came to know that the person drank raw date sap,” she told Reuters.

The health ministry has warned people against eating fruits partially eaten by birds or bats, and consuming raw date juice.

There are no treatments or vaccines for the virus.

A total of 10 people among 14 infected with Nipah virus in Bangladesh died in 2023, the highest number of fatalities in seven years, according to the IEDCR.

The infection can cause fever, headache, cough and difficulty breathing, with brain swelling likely to follow.

Its fatality rate is estimated at 40% to 75%, according to the World Health Organization.

(Reporting by Ruma Paul; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

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