Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Both Japanese Encephalitis (JE) and Nipah Virus Infection involve human and pigs (though not exclusively pigs).

But JE is JE and Nipah is Nipah. They are different diseases, not the same, as there are still many who think that they are the same.

JE is endemic (present and occur here) while Nipah is a new infection and non-endemic. Nipah is a one-off thing (I hope and pray it is so)

JE is caused by a flavivirus, transmitted by mosquitoes and its reservoir (multiplier) are domestic pigs and wading birds. Horses, cows and human are dead-end hosts. There is no human-human, horses-human, or cattle to human (the virus is too little for the mosquitoes to transmit).

Nipah is caused by a paramyxovirus (like measles and canine distemper) and disease is transmitted through contact...only those people working closely with infected pigs or fruit remnants infected with virus from infected flying fox (kluang) are infected.

JE normally infect children and the very old (debilitated), whereas Nipah can infect all - in our last case the very strong were infected as they work very closely with the pigs.

When Nipah first struck Perak and Negeri Sembilan in the late nineties, at first it was thought JE. But when the infected areas are continuously fogged that no insects (flies especially) survived (dead pigs were strangely free of maggots), yet people still came down with the disease.

But the problem was that the press and politicians too, had always and still is referring the disease as JE that it got stuck as JE.

JE was blamed for something it was not responsible for.

JE infects many Malaysians annually. If I was not mistaken, in the region of 90- 100 per year came down with the disease - but it is well spread all over the country and throughout the year.

A few days ago a 11-year old Malay girl in Temerloh was confirmed as JE victim. She is recovering now.

When JE occurs in human, there is very little that we vets could do. We could not go around killing all pigs and birds. The best advice is to prevent mosquito bites. This is easier said than done.

But when Nipah or Avian Influenza (HPAI) occurs here, oh yes, we would go and destroy all the pigs and birds in infected areas.

In countries like Japan, Taiwan, Thailand - they vaccinate the people with JE vaccines. Mosquito control is ineffective.

To Sahirin bt Zambri of SK Charok Puting, our prayers are all for you for your speedy recovery. Amin.

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