Bangladesh has so far logged 71 per cent death due to Nipah virus among positive cases – second highest fatality rate recorded since 2001 after Rabies.
The infective agent continues to pose threat in silence to public health across the country.
The Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research came up with the revelation at an event organised in the city to make people aware about the virus which is neglected by people.
According to the IEDCR statistics, 231 NiV deaths occurred out of 326 positive cases since the country first detected the disease in 2001 and started surveillance.
The IEDCR has recorded another death in Rajshahi district on January 3 due to the virus.
A 35-year-old woman died in the district hospital after she drank date juice while the country recorded three NiV deaths in 2022.
IEDCR director professor Tahmina Shirin at a seminar on Wednesday said that analysing history they found all the patients were infected with the disease after being consuming raw palm juice contaminated by bat saliva or urine and by the secondary contact with Nipah-infected persons or any food prepared from raw date/palm juice.
She urged people not to drink raw date juice to save them from one of the deadliest vector-borne diseases.
Tahmina said that those who survived also suffered from complexities for the rest of life.
Virologist professor Nazrul Islam told New Age that the vector-borne disease Nipah topped the second deadliest disease in the country as Rabies counted nearly 100 per cent deaths.
He said that cooked date juice was safe.
‘Nipah may cause contamination from half-eaten fruits and also from other contaminated animals,’ he said, asking people to maintain hand hygiene as well.
Virologists said that the NiV infection was an emerging vector-borne zoonotic infectious disease with significant public health risk as people across the country continued consuming raw date juice.
‘It is very unacceptable when educated people celebrate date juice festival despite knowing danger,’ said ASM Alamgir, a virologist.
So far NiV cases had already been detected in 32 of 64 districts across the country while the rest of the districts were under risk as well.
In terms of case detection, Rajbari, Faridpur, Lalmonirhat, Rajshahi, Jashore and Tangail were found among the top-infected districts.
NiV first emerged in Malaysia in 1998 while Bangladesh reported its first Nipah case in 2001 and so far India and Singapore also detected the virus.
Virologist Manjur Hossain Khan said that mainly Nipah was a winter disease when people harvested and consumed date juice.
Bangladesh has already experienced several Nipah outbreaks over the years including in 2001 when a total of nine people died out of 13 positive cases in Meherpur.
In 2004, 50 people died out of 67 Nipah-infected persons across the districts.
The highest over 30 infected patients were found in Faridpur district since the virus outbreak in 2004 and 2011.
The other notably infected districts are Lalmonirhat, Naogaon and Rajbari, with infected patients ranging between 21 and 30.
Nazrul Islam said that there was no treatment of the disease so far in the country that caused the highest deaths.
Patients with NiV die in hospital within two to three days of admission, he added.
IEDCR director Tahmina Shirin said that a team of researchers from Oxford University was working for vaccine development among other initiatives.
‘Vaccine development is still at a primary level,’ she pointed out.
The World Health Organisation has listed NiV as one of 10 viruses with pandemic potential.