Reuters, May 09, 1999

WHO Says Malaysia Virus Epidemic Virtually Over

MANILA (Reuters) - A viral epidemic that has killed more than 100 people in Malaysia since October appears to be over, the World Health Organization (WHO) regional office in Manila said.

A WHO statement Saturday said the selective killing of nearly 900,000 pigs in two pig-breeding regions in Malaysia had effectively eliminated the reservoir of the deadly virus ``and brought the outbreak to an end.''

``The destruction of such a large number of pigs has had a major economic impact, but it clearly saved many lives,'' it said.

``...It now appears that the outbreak of viral encephalitis has been successfully controlled.''

The Nipah virus, which is harbored by pigs, has killed 101 people in Perak and Selangor states in Malaysia.

The statement said that there had been no new cases of Nipah infection since April 30. The epidemic peaked in mid-March.

WHO said that cases of Japanese encephalitis were confirmed to have occurred during the early part of the outbreak but that since then, its role had been minimal.

It said all evidence collected so far pointed to direct contact with infected pigs as the route for human infections.

``Although domestic dogs and cats have been found to be infected with the Nipah virus during the outbreak, it is not yet clear whether these animals have a role in the transmission of the disease,'' WHO added.

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