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Malays J Pathol. 2002 Jun;24(1):15-21.

Anthropogenic deforestation, El Niño and the emergence of Nipah virus in Malaysia.

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Departments of Medical Microbiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya.


In late 1998, a novel paramyxovirus named Nipah virus, emerged in Malaysia, causing fatal disease in domestic pigs and humans with substantial economic loss to the local pig industry. Pteropid fruitbats have since been identified as a natural reservoir host. Over the last two decades, the forest habitat of these bats in Southeast Asia has been substantially reduced by deforestation for pulpwood and industrial plantation. In 1997/1998, slash-and-burn deforestation resulted in the formation of a severe haze that blanketed much of Southeast Asia in the months directly preceding the Nipah virus disease outbreak. This was exacerbated by a drought driven by the severe 1997-1998 El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) event. We present data suggesting that this series of events led to a reduction in the availability of flowering and fruiting forest trees for foraging by fruitbats and culminated in unprecedented encroachment of fruitbats into cultivated fruit orchards in 1997/1998. These anthropogenic events, coupled with the location of piggeries in orchards and the design of pigsties allowed transmission of a novel paramyxovirus from its reservoir host to the domestic pig and ultimately to the human population.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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