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Malaysia Seeks Virus Sources

After killing nearly one million pigs to contain a lethal viral outbreak, Malaysia is now targeting goats.

More than 100 people have been killed by the outbreak of Japanese encephalitis and a newly identified virus strain called Nipah. It was named after the region where it claimed its first victims, Sungai Nipah about 60 miles southeast of the capital, Kuala Lumpur.

Health Minister Chua Jui Meng said initial tests conducted by the U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have shown the Nipah virus cannot be spread through human contact.

Of 400 blood samples taken from medical personnel handling victims, some 183 tested so far have shown no sign of the virus.

Japanese encephalitis is transmitted to humans from pigs by the Culex mosquito. But the means of transmission for the Nipah virus is not yet known.

Authorities initially believed pigs were the sole carriers of the disease but have begun testing racehorses, stray dogs, fruit bats, goats and other farm animals. No official statement has been made on the results of those tests.

However, a local newspaper reports that health officials have informed farmers that many goats had tested positive for Nipah. As a result, some 1,200 goats in the Port Dickson area, close to Sungai Nipah, are expected to be killed this week.

A spokesperson at the Ministry of Health would not confirm the report and officials at the Ministry of Agriculture were not immediately available for comment.

The new virus alone infected most of those people who died, although some died after being infected by both Japanese encephalitis and Nipah.

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