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New Straits Times, May 11, 1999

VRI to Monitor High-Risk Farms in Beyond Ipoh

Checking For Lateral Transmission

IPOH -- The Veterinary Research Institute will continue to monitor high-risk pig farms and the abattoir.

"The surrounding areas will be checked for lateral transmission to see if vectors are taking the disease elsewhere," said an official.

So far, the Veterinary Services Department has detected the Nipah virus at a farm at Kampung Coldstream in Bidor, and two farms in Kuboi near Kampar. All pig farms in Ulu Piah, Ampang and Tambun where the Japanese encephalitis virus was first detected in late 1997 had been closed and some 80,000 pigs culled.

Although the movement of pigs had been banned, there was a possibility of illegal movement of the animals or that stray animals in the vicinity had contracted the disease and spread it, he said.

In Kuala Lumpur, Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng said the JE Task Force would continue to monitor the situation for the next three months, despite a World Health Organisation declaration that the outbreak in Malaysia was "virtually over".

"Since April 21, there has been only one new admission in the hospital, no deaths and 13 were discharged," he said after presenting the ISO 9002 certification to hospital support services concessionaire Faber Medi-Serve Sdn Bhd.

"This is a very good sign indeed, but the monitoring must continue until we are completely sure that the threat is obliterated."

The WHO Manila-based Western Pacific office had said on Saturday that the situation was "nearing the point where the Government can soon declare that (it) has been successfully controlled".

Chua later accepted a RM10,000 contribution from Faber Medi-serve chairman Datuk Ismail Mansor for the JE fund.
In Johor, he scheduled culling of 4,000 pigs at a farm in Seelong near Senai, 30km from here, failed to materialise today due to lack of co-ordination among the authorities.

The digging of two large pits to bury the pigs only began today when it should have been done last week.

Two excavators hired from a private company only arrived today - one in the morning and another at noon. It took each excavator about three hours to dig a pit. However, the pits were not ready by 4pm.

State Environment and Consumer Affairs Committee chairman Dr Chua Soi Lek said the culling exercise had to be postponed to tomorrow.

He said officials from the Johor Veterinary Services Department and Health Department carried out a final inspection today, which included fogging the vicinity of the farm.

The authorities involved in the culling operation are the Veterinary Services Department, Health and Medical Services Department, the army and the Fire and Rescue Department.

The farm was cordoned off to the media and the public.

Government officials entering the farm including Johor Veterinary director Dr Zubaidah Mahmood were disinfected first. Even their vehicles were not spared.

Dr Zubaidah remained tight-lipped when she came out from the farm after a 60-minute inspection. She said a Press conference would be held on Wednesday.

An operations room had been set up at the Kampung Maju Jaya community hall nearby.

Some farm workers and vegetable farmers near the pig farm went to the operations room for vaccination.

The culling exercise was initiated after a random test at the farm found some samples which tested positive for the Nipah virus.

It was reported that of the 22 samples taken from Seelong, more than three tested positive, which is sufficient for the authorities to declare the farm as a Nipah-infected farm.

A 0.5km radius of the farm has been sealed off and police have set up a 24-hour roadblock near the farm.

Last night, MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Ling Liong Sik said pig farmers should learn from this incident about the importance of cleanliness to prevent a recurrence of the outbreak.

"Both the Japanese enchepalitis and Nipah virus have gradually been contained. There is no more new cases these days," he said in a speech during a charity dinner to raise money for the JE Humanitarian Fund at Southern College last night.

His speech was read by MCA vice-president Datuk Ong Ka Ting.

A total of RM370,000 was raised by associations and clans.


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