, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp 196-203

Date Palm Sap Collection: Exploring Opportunities to Prevent Nipah Transmission

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Abstract

Nipah virus (NiV) infection is a seasonal disease in Bangladesh that coincides with the date palm sap collection season. Raw date palm sap is a delicacy to drink in Bengali culture. If fruit bats that are infected with NiV gain access to the sap for drinking, they might occasionally contaminate the sap through saliva and urine. In February 2007, we conducted a qualitative study in six villages, interviewing 27 date palm sap collectors (gachhis) within the geographical area where NiV outbreaks have occurred since 2001. Gachhis reported that bats pose a challenge to successful collection of quality sap, because bats drink and defecate into the sap which markedly reduces its value. They know some methods to prevent access by bats and other pests but do not use them consistently, because of lack of time and resources. Further studies to explore the effectiveness of these methods and to motivate gachhis to invest their time and money to use them could reduce the risk of human Nipah infection in Bangladesh.