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Mysterious Outbreak Of Virus Linked To Gruesome Religious Ritual



The doctors were perplexed when an outbreak of a little known virus was reported in a group of 10 people living in London. They were non-drug addicts, never received a blood transfusion and did not show any other identifiable risk factors for blood borne viruses

The case was a bit of a mystery, but then one of the doctors he noticed unusual scars on one of the patient's backs. This led them to identify a common thread among all infected men: they were all Muslims who had taken part in a bloody religious ritual of sharing the lama.

Reporting in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases scientists from the Imperial College of London and from St Mary's Hospital London documented the spread of the T- lymphotropic virus human cell type 1

(HTLV-1) by self-flagellation.

All the men seemed to have acquired the virus transmissible by blood separately through a religious ritual that involves inflicting wounds on themselves using rods or whips as an expression of faith in some Islamic and Catholic Shiite communities . [19659003] One of the men even remembered that the blades were immersed in a bucket of an antiseptic solution together with the blades used by other men. While it might be assumed that this would be sufficient to sterilize the equipment, the virus survived and was transmitted to other men who proceeded to open wounds with the blade

Shiite Muslims use chains and blades during the auto- ritual flagellation as part of the Ashura commemorations in the Arab district of Varanasi, India. Jose HERNANDEZ / Shutterstock

"It is likely to be the sharing of blood-stained blades, the reuse of personal equipment after inadequate cleaning with a shared disinfectant, contact of infected blood with open wounds or contact with infected medical equipment has led to HTLV-1 transmission, "The authors of the study write.

HTLV-1 is actually a distant relative of HIV. The vast majority of people with HTLV-1 never show any symptoms, however, between 2 and 5 percent of infected people will develop T-cell cancer, a type of white blood cell. Less than 2% of people with HTLV-1 will develop HAM / TSP, a chronic disease of the nervous system. Unfortunately, there is still no known cure.

The most common cause of transmission is breastfeeding, needle sharing and sexual transmission. The doctors on the case now claim that self-flagellation should be added to the list of ways to spread a dangerous viral blood infection. They note that one of the men had also contracted hepatitis C, a blood borne virus that can lead to lethal damage to the liver. Although it is quite common in some parts of the world, this religious ritual has never been officially described as a risk factor, until now.

"Our message is not & # 39; Don't do it. & # 39; Our message is" If you do, don't share the equipment, "Dr. Divya Dhasmana of the St. Mary & Co. told The Associated Press # 39; s London Hospital.


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