HTLV-1 has been traced to self-flagellation.

The Islamic day of mourning, Ashura, has been linked to an outbreak of a rare blood disease. The day is marked by Muslims, but the Shia sect, in particular, has more rites involved with the day than others. While it originated to mark the day that Noah left the Ark and when Moses was saved from Egyptians, it has taken on new meanings in the modern day.

However, Shia Muslims take the day more seriously because it marks the martyrdom of Hussein back in 680 A.D. The day is unlike many others due to the unique rituals that take place during that day. While some people walk through the streets dressed in black and beat themselves, others will take things a step farther, and that is where the interesting part of this story takes place.

Some of the men who take part in Ashura rituals will engage in self-flagellation using chains and razors to draw blood. Using whips to beat themselves, these individuals will walk through the streets streaming blood. However, the problem that emerged in this case appeared in Britain, where 10 men were stricken with an extremely rare blood disorder.

After some investigation, it was discovered by Dr. Divya Dhasmana of St. Mary’s Hospital the blood disorder stemmed from people drawing blood and spreading the infection around using unclean instruments during the Ashura rituals. According to Dr. Dhasmana “There have been suggestions that you might spread infections through this route, but it has never been described before.”

Unfortunately, the men had been infected with T-Cell Leukemia virus type 1, also known as HTLV-1. While HTLV-1 is most often spread through sex, blood transfusions, and similar means of transmission, it has now been linked to the bloodletting that occurs during Ashura. There are numerous problems that stem from this ailment including blood cancer and nervous system problems. While the men were all asymptomatic, the fact is they had taken part in various forms of bloodletting throughout Ashura and insufficient methods of disinfecting the blades were used.

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