Fatal Virus Spreads Via Pig's Body Fluids: No Sign of Transmission from Humans

By Price, Joyce Howard | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 11, 1999 | Go to article overview

Fatal Virus Spreads Via Pig's Body Fluids: No Sign of Transmission from Humans


Price, Joyce Howard, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


A previously unknown virus that has killed as many as 118 persons in Malaysia and Singapore appears to be spread "through direct contact with the body fluids of pigs," according to the World Health Organization.

An official of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has 11 scientists in Asia studying the virus, says there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission of the deadly infection, which causes symptoms of encephalitis or meningitis.

"I think we have a handle on this disease. . . . There is no need for travel restrictions," Dr. Rima Khabbaz, deputy director of the CDC's Division of Viral and Rickettsial Infections, said in a telephone interview.

Her comments were echoed by officials of the Malaysian government. Pigs have been suspected as a source of the infection, because all of the 240 persons stricken by the virus in the past six months were adults who worked closely with pigs.

"In some instances, illness in pigs occurred one to two2 weeks before illness in humans," according to a story Friday in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

In humans, the virus causes fever, severe headache, muscular pain, signs of encephalitis or meningitis, and, in some cases, respiratory illness, the CDC report said.

Typically, a person is sick for three to 14 days with fever and headache. That's followed by drowsiness and disorientation that can progress to a coma within 24 to 48 hours.

All but 11 of the 240 victims were Malaysians, and the 11 Singapore adults stricken "had handled swine imported from Malaysia," according to the CDC.

Reports of the death toll in Malaysia range from 92 to 117. The CDC says 111 persons there have died, plus one death in Singapore.

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