Struck down

Published: Monday 15 March 2004

-- A Nipah-like virus, linked to the Siliguri fever of 2001, is the most likely cause of an epidemic that has afflicted Bangladesh. Until January, the pathogen had claimed more than 14 lives and affected 42 others. Now, 45 new cases are under investigation.

The areas of high incidence are Manikganj and Rajbari provinces. The US-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with other bodies such as International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research and Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research in Bangladesh, is studying the virus. In India, a World Health Organization official said the fever episodes were being monitored to find the causal organism. The virus can stay in the body for four to 18 days. Symptoms include high fever and muscle pain. The virus may then affect the brain leading to drowsiness, disorientation, convulsions and coma. In over half of clinically apparent cases, the patients die. Fruit bats and pigs seem to be the hosts for the pathogen, and human-to-human transmission has not been reported.

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