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Japanese encephalitis confirmed in Sabah, Malaysia

The virus has been detected and confirmed on a pig farm in Tambunan, Sabah, Malaysia.

16 July 2019, at 12:24pm

Recent reports confirm more cases of the Japanese encephalitis (JE) virus. Upon being informed, the Department of Veterinary Services began inspections of and testing at all seven pig farms in the vicinity of the infected farm. No human has been found to be infected but JE is a disease that can infect a number of animal species, including humans.

JE is a viral brain infection that is spread through mosquito bites and is most common in rural areas of southeast Asia, the Pacific islands and the Far East. Clinical signs of JE in humans include sudden onset of headache, high fever, neck stiffness, convulsions and muscle weakness. Some patients may even fall into a coma.

Clinical signs in pigs

Piglets

  • Mummified piglets.
  • Stillborn piglets.
  • Abnormal piglets.
  • Weak piglets.
  • Nervous signs in piglets – fits and convulsions.
  • Subcutaneous oedema (excess clear bodily fluid under the skin).
  • Hydrocephalus (water on the brain).

Boars

  • Infertility in boars.
  • Degeneration and swelling of testicles.

There is no cure for the disease but authorities encourage vaccination as a prevention method, as well as control of mosquitos and other arthropods that can transmit the virus.

Local authorities in Sabah and the Sarawak Health Department are now on high alert as five JE cases have been confirmed in the last month. The public is urged to be cautious and to monitor outbreaks nearby.