Nipah virus (NiV) is a paramyxovirus, and Pteropus spp. bats are the natural reservoir. From December 2010 through March 2014, hospital-based encephalitis surveillance in Bangladesh identified 18 clusters of NiV infection. The source of infection for case-patients in 3 clusters in 2 districts was unknown. A team of epidemiologists and anthropologists investigated these 3 clusters comprising 14 case-patients, 8 of whom died. Among the 14 case-patients, 8 drank fermented date palm sap (tari) regularly before their illness, and 6 provided care to a person infected with NiV. The process of preparing date palm trees for tari production was similar to the process of collecting date palm sap for fresh consumption. Bat excreta was reportedly found inside pots used to make tari. These findings suggest that drinking tari is a potential pathway of NiV transmission. Interventions that prevent bat access to date palm sap might prevent tari-associated NiV infection.
Keywords: Bangladesh; NiV; Nipah virus; Pteropus; bats; fermented date palm sap; paramyxovirus; tari; viruses.