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Report: Malays Flee Deadly Epidemic

March 3, 1999

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) _ Villagers in western Malaysia sacrificed pigs and prayed at a Chinese temple as others fled after an epidemic of Japanese encephalitis, a newspaper reported today.

The virus, that is being transmitted from pigs to human beings, has killed 25 people in Malaysia in the last five months.

More than 140 families packed their belongings in trucks and cars, abandoned their pig farms and left Sungai Nipah, about 80 miles south of the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, The Sun daily said. The scare was triggered in the prosperous pig-rearing village after two people died last month.

Doctors say the disease, which attacks the brain, is not transmitted by eating pork and cannot be transmitted by infected people.

Japanese encephalitis has been in Malaysia since 1935, but a new strain discovered in the early 1990s in Ipoh, the capital of the northern state of Perak, may be more resistant to vaccines.

On Tuesday, health authorities killed 250 piglets in the Sungai Nipah by injecting them with a lethal chemical, the daily said. Thousands of pigs had been slaughtered and even clubbed to death in nearby areas to prevent the virus from spreading.

The daily said three pigs had been slaughtered at Sungai Nipah’s Chinese temple by farmers who believed that the sacrifice would ward off the epidemic.

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