The Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) in Bangladesh is reporting that between February 9 and 24, five members of a family in Baliadanga upazila, Thakurgaon died after complaining of fever, headache, nausea, and pain in muscles and joints.

The IEDCR reports one of them was found to have carried the deadly Nipah virus (NiV). Although not confirmed, it is presumed that the four others also contracted the deadly virus.

An IEDCR team was dispatched to investigate and quarantine the area. They strongly urge people to not drink date juice before it is treated. It is also providing gloves and masks to people in the affected area.

From 2001-2018, Bangladesh reported 303 Nipah virus cases, accounting for 211 deaths (approximately a 70 case fatality rate).

Nipah virus: An introduction

Pteropus fruit bat Image/Video Screen Shot
Pteropus fruit bat
Image/Video Screen Shot

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in the Bangladesh and India outbreaks, consumption of fruits or fruit products (e.g. raw date palm juice) contaminated with urine or saliva from infected fruitbats was the most likely source of infection. Fruit bats of the family Pteropodidae – particularly species belonging to the Pteropus genus – are the natural hosts for Nipah virus. There is no apparent disease in fruit bats.

In more recent outbreaks of the disease, person-to-person transmission has been seen in Bangladesh and India.

The disease in humans can range from asymptomatic infection to fatal encephalitis. Encephalitis and seizures occur in severe cases, progressing to coma within 24 to 48 hours.

The case fatality rate is estimated at 40% to 75%; however, this rate can vary by outbreak depending on local capabilities for surveillance investigations, according to the WHO.

Related: The World’s Deadliest Viruses

Those who survive acute encephalitis make a full recovery, but around 20% are left with residual neurological consequences such as persistent convulsions and personality changes.

There is no treatment or vaccine available for either people or animals.