AP Wire, May 7th, 1999

Rare Virus Spreads to New Area

Pigs Infected in Senai, near Singapore

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: An outbreak of viral encephalitis that has killed more than 100 people in Malaysia has spread to a new part of the country despite government efforts to control it, an official said Friday.

The Nipah virus, named after the first village it struck near the capital, Kuala Lumpur, has sickened more than 250 Malaysians in eight months. The stubborn virus, which first spread from pigs to humans, has baffled scientists researching its origin and mode of transmission.

The virus causes high fever, aches, eventual coma and death. It surfaced last year near the northern city of Ipoh, then months later spread to Negeri Sembilan state, the worst-hit area, where more than 50 hog farmers and farm hands succumbed.

Dr. Chua Soi Lek, an environment and consumer affairs official, said the virus has now infected nearly all 4,000 pigs on a hog farm near the village of Senai, 15 miles from Singapore, in the southern state of Johor, the government news agency Bernama reported.

All the pigs, along with dogs and cats on the farm, will be killed early next week.

There have been no recent deaths since authorities shut down pig farms and slaughtered nearly 1 million hogs suspected of carrying the virus. But the virus is still surfacing in new areas throughout the Southeast Asian nation.

"We're investigating how the virus could have reached this state,'' Chua was quoted as saying. "We need to know whether the pigs were smuggled here from the affected states.''

Police have set up roadblocks around infected farms to prevent pigs being taken across state borders.

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