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Nipah virus and other emerging infections

A brief guide to some important emerging infections and their impact in Bangladesh.          

Nipah virus

  • Nipah virus was first discovered in 1998 in Malaysia and was first seen in Bangladesh in 2001.
  • Nipah virus infection causes potentially lethal inflammation of the brain (encephalitis); in Bangladesh, about three-quarters of those infected with Nipah virus have died.
  • Since 2001,outbreaks of Nipah virus encephalitis have occurred nearly annually in Bangladesh and India.1
  • During 2001–14, 248 Nipah virus infections were reported in Bangladesh
  • Nipah virus is usually transmitted by bats, but it can also be spread from one infected person to another.
  • In Bangladesh, Nipah virus is usually acquired through consumption of date palm sap contaminated with bat saliva or urine.

Avian influenza virus (bird flu)

  • Highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza was first detected in Bangladesh in poultry in 2007.
  • As of 2019, eight human infections with H5N1 avian influenza have been confirmed in Bangladesh, with one death.2,3
  • H5N1 is endemic within poultry in Bangladesh.
  • Three cases of H9N2 avian influenza, which causes a mild disease, have been detected in Bangladesh.4

Dengue virus

  • Dengue virus is spread by mosquitoes and can cause high fever, severe headache, and pain behind the eyes, in muscle and in joints.
  • Dengue occurred sporadically in Bangladesh from the 1960s to 2000, when a large epidemic established it within the country.
  • The largest dengue epidemic occurred in 2002, when 6,132 cases and around 60 deaths were reported.5
  • The number of recorded cases is now much lower, but many infections are likely to be unrecorded; the Global Burden of Disease 2019 study estimated there were 1.48 million symptomatic dengue infections in Bangladesh during 2019.
  • Globally, there were around 57 million symptomatic episodes and approximately 36,055 died of the disease in 2019; however, most cases are mild.6,7

Chikungunya virus

  • Chikungunya virus is transmitted by mosquitoes and causes fever and joint pain.
  • Chikungunya virus was first identified in Tanzania in 1952; the first recorded outbreak in Bangladesh occurred in 2008.
  • A further small outbreak occurred in 2011, and evidence of Chikungunya infection was found in analysis of blood samples from people living in Dhaka in 2014.
  • A large outbreak occurred in 2017, with more 13,000 confirmed cases in Dhaka alone.8


  • Anthrax (‘Torka’) is an infection caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis; most infections are skin lesions, although the bacterium can infect the lungs, intestine and bloodstream.
  • Anthrax is spread through exposure to Bacillus anthracis spores; it is usually caught following exposure to infected animals – it does not normally spread from person to person.
  • Since 2009, 2400 cases of human anthrax had been reported9, but many more cases probably go unreported.
  • Anthrax is probably endemic in Bangladesh livestock; the disease is most prevalent in Sirajganj(site of an anthrax outbreak in 2016) and nearby districts

Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, MERS-CoV

  • MERS-CoV is a novel virus causing severe respiratory disease, first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012.
  • As of 2022, 2,591 cases laboratory-confirmed cases have been reported globally, causing 894 deaths have been reported.10
  • MERS-CoV has not been detected in Bangladesh; a possible infection reported in 2014 was later found to be a false alarm.



1.     https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1805376

2.     https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6789720/

3.     https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1755436517300191

4.     https://veterinaryresearch.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13567-020-00771-3

5.     https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16632907/

6.     https://www.healthdata.org/gbd/2019

7.     https://vizhub.healthdata.org/gbd-compare/

8.     https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7058364

9.     https://iedcr.gov.bd/nbph/issue-sections/423eba4f-6be1-4038-8a7f-f3d443b598c4

10.  https://www.emro.who.int/health-topics/mers-cov/mers-outbreaks.html