Researchers link self-flagellation on ‘Yaum-e-Ashura’ to dangerous viral blood infection

Researchers have discovered that self-flagellation may cause a dangerous viral blood infection. They were initially puzzled how 10 British men had become infected with a little-known virus because the men hadn’t taken risks usually associated with the infection. However, they later learned that the men had participated in blood-shedding religious rituals cutting or whipping themselves in Iraq, Pakistan, India and the United Kingdom. Scars were noticed on the back of one man, leading to questions that revealed all 10 men had participated in religious self-flagellation.

Dr. Divya Dhasmana of St. Mary’s Hospital in London, one of the authors of the study released on Wednesday in a journal published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has stated in a published medical study, “There have been suggestions that you might spread infections through this route, but it has never been described before.”

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As reported by the Business Standard, the men were infected with human T-cell leukaemia virus type 1. Most people infected with the virus never develop symptoms, but some develop terrible illnesses, like deadly blood cancer or a debilitating nervous system condition.

According to experts, an estimated 10 million people worldwide are infected with HTLV-1 which spreads through breastfeeding, sex, blood transfusion and sharing of needles.

The religious ritual involves striking the forehead with a knife and then passing it along to other men, as well as striking the back with a chain of blades or other bladed equipments. The passing around of blood-soaked blades is believed to spread HTLV-1.

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Among different religious groups, mostly Shia Muslims practice whipping or cutting oneself on the day of Ashura. Usually, only men are involved in the practice.

Business Standard quoted Dhasmana as saying, “Our message is not ‘Don’t do it.’ Our message is ‘If you do it, don’t share equipment’.

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