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Nipah virus in Bangladesh

18 Jan 2023

Media have reported a death caused by Nipah virus in the city of Rajshah, western Bangladesh. It is reported that the infection was due to drinking raw date juice contaminated by urine or saliva from infected fruit bats.

Professor Tahmina Shirin, director of the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), said at least 139 of the 330 known cases in Bangladesh had become infected after drinking raw date juice. Most cases of Nipah virus (71%) reported in Bangladesh are fatal.

Nipah virus is spread by fruit bats and mainly affects domestic and wild animals. Infection in people is rare but can occur if you have close contact with infected animals, their secretions, or from eating food or fruit juices contaminated by the virus. Nipah can cause serious symptoms such as brain inflammation, breathing difficulties or even death.

Advice for Travellers

The risk to travellers is very rare. You need to be aware of the risk if you are:

  • intending to live or work in basic conditions in Bangladesh, India or South East Asia
  • going to be involved in intensive pig farming in Bangladesh, India or South East Asia

You can reduce your risk of infection by:

  • avoiding close contact with fruit bats and bat roosts
  • avoid consumption of food and drink potentially contaminated by fruit bat droppings or pee; raw date palm sap should be boiled before being consumed and fruit should be thoroughly washed and peeled
  • wearing protective clothing and gloves when handling sick animals or participating in slaughter
  • being aware of the risks of infection and practice regular hand washing with soap if you are caring for ill relatives potentially infected with Nipah
  • following strict infection control procedures if you will be working as a healthcare worker looking after patients with suspected or confirmed Nipah