Monday, March 30

JE virus detected in Tambunan


Junz Wong

KOTA KINABALU: Agriculture and Food Industry Minister Junz Wong called on the public to remain calm and not to speculate on the Japanese Encephalitis (JE) virus found on a human in Tambunan.

Junz yesterday clarified that the JE was actually detected on a human in Kampung Lubong, Tambunan by the Health Department and not on a pig.

He said the disease might have been contracted from other sources, not necessarily from a pig though the animal used to be blamed for such incident.

The minister said he had instructed officers from the Veterinary Services Department to check on all pig farms in the district.

“It is a human infection. We are trying to identify how this could happen.

“We have not detected any infection among the pigs. There is no danger now but we are not going to wait, so we have taken precautionary measures,” he said.

“However, my officers are taking samples for testing from the pigs around this area amounting to about 80 heads. We will update once the results are out,” said the minister.

Junz reiterated, “Pork is still safe to be consumed as for now.”

He urged pig farm owners to work closely with the Sabah Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) and report any incidences.

“DVS is not taking any chances and is checking on swine farms in the district and this is standard procedure when any disease is detected.

“Sabah still has a number of backyard pig farms. We plan to give incentive to farmers to report sick animals.

“We don’t want farmers to slaughter and sell meat from sick pigs,” Junz said.

The minister informed that DVS has stepped up surveillance and enforcement, especially at entry points.

“We will do our best to protect Sabah,” he added.

An internal letter issued by the state DVS informing of a JE case in Tambunan went viral on social media on Monday.

The letter said the Tambunan DVS team had responded and found seven traditional pig breeders at the village. Altogether, there are 80 pigs in the farms.

Sabah Health and Well-being Minister Frankie Poon said he was still waiting for details from the state health director.

The Sarawak Health Department had last month reminded the public to take extra precaution after five JE cases were confirmed in the state.

There is no cure for JE, but vaccinations are encouraged by health officials as they provide a form of protection.

JE is a type of viral brain infection that can affect both humans and animals. It can be passed on to humans by infected animals through the bite of an infected Culex mosquito.

An infected person develops inflammation of the brain (encephalitis) and suffers symptoms such as sudden onset of headache, high fever, neck stiffness, convulsions and muscles weakness, and might even fall into a coma.

Last month, the Sarawak Health Department urged the public to be cautious after confirming five JE cases in the state.