The Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research has reported an early increase in the number of Nipah virus infections in the 2013 season, which runs from January-April. Eleven new cases were reported within two weeks and there have been 8 deaths from Nipah virus infection so far in 2013. The first death was confirmed on 22 January; an 8-year-old boy from Dhaka.
Nipah virus infection is an ongoing problem in Bangladesh as it is spread through the consumption of raw date sap which has been contaminated by fruit bats that carry the virus. Drinking raw date sap in the morning is popular in Bangladesh, particularly in rural areas.
The Health Ministry is to launch an awareness campaign this season as the infection has a fatality rate of almost 80%. The infection is preventable, either by not consuming raw date sap or by boiling the sap first which will destroy the virus.
Advice for Travellers
Travellers should be aware of the risk of Nipah encephalitis in Bangladesh, particulary if visiting rural areas between January-April. Travellers are advised to refrain from drinking raw date sap.