PHUKET: Health officials in Phuket are scrambling to devise a new strategy to ensure the pig-related virus that has killed dozens in Malaysia does not spread to the island. The authorities, along with Malaysian health officials, originally thought the outbreak was Japanese Encephalitis (JE), which is endemic in much of the Far East. But research by the US-based Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has revealed that the Malaysian epidemic was caused at least in part by a new strain of virus making the leap from pigs into humans. The disease appears similar to the Hendra virus, a member of the paramyxovirus family, which made the leap from horses into the human population in Australia in 1994. It killed 13 racehorses and two of the three people who became infected. Hendra seems to be spread via the infected animal’s bodily fluids, such as urine or blood. JE is spread by mosquitoes. Signs and symptoms of the Hendra-like virus are similar to those of JE, starting with fever, followed by drowsiness and coma. The late stages are said to be accompanied by fluctuating blood pressure and body temperature. Assistant Director of Health Somboon Aeiyarak told the Gazette that his department was still researching the implications before deciding what further action, if any, needed to be taken. Khun Niphat Rungruan, Chief of the Phuket Livestock Office, confirmed that no pigs are being imported into Phuket from Malaysia. “They all come from Phang-Nga, Ranong or Prajuab Khirikhan,” he said.
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