New Straits Times, May 6th, 1999

Not Nipah: "Anna and the King" horses died of herbicide

Royal horses also virus-free

By Mimi Syed Yusof

IPOH, Wed. - Two of the 100-odd horses used in filming Anna and the King died after ingesting herbicide and not of the Nipah virus infection as was feared.

20th Century Fox unit publicist Claire Raskinds said an autopsy revealed the horses had eaten plants that had been sprayed with herbicide.

The deaths were reported to the Veterinary Services Department with a veterinarian brought in to determine the cause of death.

The Perak Veterinary Services Department has not received any report of horses from Anna and The King being infected by the Nipah virus.

Sources said horses involved in the filming had been given a clean bill of health.

Most of them are either from the police force or belong to individuals.

The horses in Anna and The King are part of a large menagerie including elephants.

The movie crew, which has just completed filming in Langkawi, is now here to complete the remaining six to eight weeks of filming at the Clearwater Sanctuary Golf Resort.

The scare was caused because recently, two horses at Iskandar Polo Club tested positive for Nipah and were put down. Blood samples from about 20 other horses have been taken for analysis.

Blood samples from workers at the club were also taken, and the club has been put under quarantine and sealed off.

The Nipah virus, which is linked to the deadly Japanese encephalitis disease, infected pigs in Negri Sembilan resulting in the culling of over 800,000 pigs in Negri Sembilan, Perak and Selangor.

Meanwhile, Perak Menteri Besar Tan Sri Ramli Ngah Talib said no horses belonging to the Perak royal family were infected with the Nipah virus.

Speaking to reporters after chairing the State Executive Council meeting today, he said all horses brought into Perak had been quarantined for the specified period.

He said the Veterinary Services Department director-general Datuk Dr Mohd Nordin Mohd Nor had also confirmed this.

Ramli was responding to rumours that horses belonging to the royal family were brought in without going through the quarantine period and were believed to have been infected with the Nipah virus.

In Malacca, nearly 80 of the 102 pig farms have been covered under the 'screening test and culling' of animals which will end tomorrow.

A State Veterinary Services Department spokesman said officers took blood samples from 15 pigs from each farm for analysis in Kuala Lumpur.

They were assisted by private veterinary professionals and livestock breeders.

Last week, State Veterinary Services director Dr Borhan Abu Samah had said the exercise was part of the Government's on-going efforts to contain the outbreak of deadly diseases and viral encephalitis.

Dr Borhan also had said that if examination showed that the pigs were infected, all the remaining pigs at the farm would have to be destroyed.

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