Straight off the bat

An epidemic in Bangladesh

Published: Tuesday 15 June 2004

The Nipah virus epidemic in Bangladesh, which broke out this year, is probably linked to fruit bats (genus Pteropus). Epidemological studies carried out in the country suggest this link for the cases reported in the country in Februrary 2004 in Rajbari, Manikganj, Jaipurhat and Naogang districts. The virus reportedly killed 18 people in Faridpur district in April 2004, though the Centres for Disease Control confirmed only 16 of these deaths as caused by it.

Though bats were a known source of the virus, these studies are the first to show that it can get transmitted from bats to humans. The outbreak seems to have been caused by contact with bat dropping and bat-contaminated fruits.

Infection by the Nipah virus leads to high fever, muscle pain and may also affect the brain. There is no cure for the disease. Bangladesh witnessed similar but smaller outbreaks in 2001 and 2003.

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