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Malays J Pathol. 2010 Dec;32(2):69-73.

Epidemiology, surveillance and control of Nipah virus infections in Malaysia.

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  • Makmal Kesihatan Awam Kebangsaan (National Public Health Laboratory), Ministry of Health, Selangor, Malaysia. chuakawbing@yahoo.com.sg


The outbreak of Nipah virus, affecting pigs and pig-farm workers, was first noted in September 1998 in the north-western part of peninsular Malaysia. By March 1999, the outbreak had spread to other pig-farming areas of the country, inclusive of the neighbouring country, Singapore. A total of 283 human cases of viral encephalitis with 109 deaths were recorded in Malaysia from 29 September 1998 to December 1999. During the outbreak period, a number of surveillances under three broad groups; Surveillance in Human Health Sector, Surveillance in Animal Health Sector, and Surveillance for the Reservoir Hosts, were carried out to determine the prevalence, risk of virus infections and transmission in human and swine populations as well as the source and reservoir hosts of Nipah virus. Surveillance data showed that the virus spread rapidly among pigs within infected farms and transmission was attributed to direct contact with infective excretions and secretions. The spread of the virus among pig farms within and between states of peninsular Malaysia was due to movement of pigs. The transmission of the virus to humans was through close contact with infected pigs. Human to human transmission was considered a rare event though the Nipah virus could be isolated from saliva, urine, nasal and pharyngeal secretions of patients. Field investigations identified fruitbats of the Pteropid species as the natural reservoir hosts of the viruses. The outbreak was effectively brought under control following the discovery of the virus and institution of correct control measures through a combined effort of multi-ministerial and multidisciplinary teams working in close co-operation and collaboration with other international agencies.

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