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Awareness campaign against Nipah begins

Sajia Afrin

The health ministry has recently launched an awareness campaign against Nipah in 27 districts of the country to prevent the people from taking raw date or palm juice.
The directorate general of health services has identified 217 Nipah-prone upazilas in the 27 districts, Be-Nazir Ahmed, director of disease control at directorate general of health services, told New Age on Friday.
‘Primarily, we have started our campaign in 25 upazilas of which the campaign ended in 20 upazilas till Thursday,’ he said, adding that the campaign in five other upazilas was scheduled to be completed by December.
Gradually, all the upazilas would be brought under the campaign programme, he said.
Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research director Mahmudur Rahman told New Age that during this season, no Nipah case was found till Thursday.
‘We have tested some suspected cases in last few days from our surveillance site, but we are yet to find any case,’ he said.
With the onset of winter, date juice extraction has started in the country for last few days.
‘Usually Nipah breaks out either at the end of December or at the beginning of January when extraction of raw date juice starts,’ he said.
The virus that kills over 80 percent of its total infections caused death to 21 out of 24 people infected by it since the beginning of 2013.
These cases were reported from 13 districts — Gaibandha, Jhenaidah, Kurigram, Kushtia, Magura, Manikganj, Mymensingh, Naogaon, Natore, Nilphamari, Pabna, Rajbari and Rajshahi, according to the IEDCR officials.
The bat-borne Nipah virus that infects a person only after drinking raw date sap and later can pass on to other persons through contact which is a cause of public health concern in Bangladesh.
Since 2001, when it first broke out as an unknown disease, the virus had killed 136 out of 176 victims in 21 districts across Bangladesh.
It usually takes seven to eight days on average between exposure and symptoms such as fever, altered mental status and seizure, said IEDCR experts.
It is difficult to prevent the people from drinking raw date or palm juice as it is an old practice in Bangladesh, said Rahman.
An ICDDR,B study using infrared cameras found that fruit bats perch on jars and put up on trees to collect the sap and try to drink juice. They also urinate into pots.
The Pteropus bats’ saliva and urine carry the virus. But it gets destroyed if the sap is boiled.
‘The virus is killed in 70 degrees Celsius temperature,’ Rahman said.
Ahmed said that they had identified 1,000 owners of date trees in 25 upazilas and urged them not to sell raw juice directly to consumers. ‘We also want to make them aware of it.’

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