No deadly Nipah virus case was detected in Bangladesh this winter, the chief of the goverment's Centre for Disease Control (CDC) says. "Our extensive awareness programme worked," Line Director Prof Abul Khair Mohammad Shamsuzzaman said on Friday. 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, is a cause of public health concern in Bangladesh. It has been breaking out every winter since 2001. Anthropological study says drinking raw date or palm sap in the morning is an old practice in Bangladesh, especially in rural areas, where there is a general lack of hygiene. A study using infrared cameras found that fruit bats perch on the jars, put up on trees to collect the sap, and try to drink the juice. They also urinate into the pot. 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. But once infected, there is no cure. Nearly 80 percent of the infected 298 people died so far. The virus usually takes on an average seven to eight days between exposure and signs of symptoms — fever, altered mental status and seizure. The line director said they had taken 'extensive' programme before the winter to make people aware of the virus. "I think our programme has succeeded. People did not drink raw date sap," he said, while speaking at an orientation programme on communicable disease control at Gazipur Civil Surgeon Office. The Bangladesh Health Reporters' Forum (BHRF) organised the event in association with the CDC on the outskirts of Dhaka.
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