Panic gripped villagers of Bhandardaha Morichpara area in Thakurgaon's Baliadangi upazila after five of a family died from an “unknown disease”, while three others, related to the deceased, were hospitalised with similar symptoms in the last twenty days.
Acting Civil Surgeon Dr Shahjahan Newaj told this correspondent that a team of experts -- led by Dr Md Gazi Shah Alam from Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) in Mohakhali of Dhaka -- has reached Thakurgaon yesterday afternoon.
The team will visit the village and identify the disease that led to the deaths. The experts will also ascertain whether the other three also contracted the same disease, added Dr Shahjahan.
Dr Firoz Zaman, health and family planning officer at Baliadangi Upazila Health Complex, said the infected individuals initially complained of weakness. Gradually, they suffered from mild fever and pain in body and at one stage they died after lapsing into unconsciousness.
“Although we are yet to be confirmed, but as of now, it appears that the persons might have been infected with encephalitis [an acute inflammation or swelling of the brain, usually resulting from either a viral infection or due to the body's own immune system mistakenly attacking brain tissue],” he said.
A control room has been opened at the upazila health complex and individuals with similar symptoms will be treated separately, Dr Firoz added.
On February 9, Abu Taher, 55, of Bhandardaha Morichpara died with the symptoms.
On February 20, Taher's son-in-law Habibur Rahman Bablu, 35, was admitted to Rangpur Medical College Hospital (RMCH). Habibur died the next morning.
The same day, Taher's wife Hosneara Begum, 45, also died at their house in Bhandardaha Morichpara.
On February 24, Taher's son Yusuf Ali, 27, died on way to RMCH, while Taher's other son Mehedi Hasan, 24, also died the same night, suffering from similar symptoms.
The three others, who are currently undergoing treatment at RMCH, are deceased Yusuf's father-in-law Rabiul, 44; Rabiul's wife Kohinur Begum, 32; and the couple's two-year old daughter.
Dr Shahjahan Newaj said until the disease is identified, they were advising villagers to use facemask.
Baliadangi Upazila Nirbahi Officer Masudur Rahman told journalists that they took necessary measures so the disease cannot spread to other areas and so far, they distributed around 200 facemasks among villagers.