Sabah minister confirms JE virus found in pig

Sabah Agriculture and Food Industry Minister Junz Wong says Department of Veterinary Services personnel are checking pig farms in the Tambunan district. (Reuters pic.)

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Agriculture and Food Industry Minister Junz Wong today confirmed that the Japanese encephalitis (JE) virus had been detected in a pig in the state’s interior Tambunan district.

However, he said, no human had been infected.

Wong said the state health department detected the virus in a pig at a farm in Kampung Lubong, about 100km from Kota Kinabalu, on July 11.

A team from the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) was sent to the village to check on all pig farms after being notified of the matter, he said.

“We will update on the issue soon. My officers are taking samples for testing from the pigs in the area. (It’s) nothing serious but we must take precautionary measures now,” he said.

Wong was asked about an internal letter issued by the DVS, which made the rounds on social media yesterday, informing of a JE find in Tambunan.

The letter stated that the Tambunan DVS team had found seven traditional pig breeders at the village and that there were a total of 80 pigs in the farms.

An infected person develops inflammation of the brain (encephalitis) and suffers symptoms like sudden onsets of headache, high fever, neck stiffness, tremors and convulsions and muscle weakness. Some even fall into a coma.

Treatment is only given to relieve the symptoms, supporting the body’s functions as it tries to fight off the infection.

About one in four patients dies from the disease. Those who survive take many months to make a full recovery and up to half of them are left with permanent brain damage.

There is currently no cure for JE, with the vaccine deemed to be the best protection against the virus.

On July 7, the health ministry confirmed that a seven-year-old pupil from Taman Sentoria in Kota Samarahan, Sarawak, had tested positive for JE in May. However, he was treated and discharged from hospital on June 5.