Saturday, June 30, 2007

New bat virus detected

Star: MALACCA: Malaysian scientists have discovered a new bat virus, called the Melaka Virus, which causes respiratory illness in humans.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said that a team of scientists from the ministry, led by Dr Chua Kaw Bing, had discovered the virus through study and research.
Kaw Bing said the virus was first spotted when a 39-year-old man living in the suburban area near Bemban complained of high fever, cough, sore throat and runny nose in May last year.
“The disease then spread to his two children and wife.
“At the moment, these are the four known patients who were infected. With medication and treatment, however, they have since recovered.
“We then found out that the family had been exposed to a bat which flew into the house about a week before the man started falling ill, and we believe that the bat could have been the cause of the disease,” said Kaw Bing.
The disease was spread through water droplets, he added.
The symptoms of the disease, Kaw Bing said, were high fever for about four days, a temperature of up to 41°C, cough, runny nose, fatigue and a swollen throat that makes swallowing painful.
“Analysis indicated a close genetic relationship between the Melaka Virus and the Pulau Virus, which was isolated in 1999 from fruit bats in Pulau Tioman.
“Screening collected from human volunteers on the island revealed that 14 out of 109 people (13%) tested were positive for both Pulau and Melaka viruses,” said Kaw Bing.
The minister said that a joint research on the virus would be conducted by the Institute for Medical Research, the National Public Health Laboratory and the Australian Animal Health Laboratory to develop laboratory diagnostics, surveillance and viral pathogenesis.
“In Malaysia we are always monitoring contagious diseases because we pay attention to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) warning that there is a possibility of a new virus appearing each year.
“Therefore, surveillance and monitoring through our chain of clinics are very important,” he told newsmen after launching the Know Your Medicine campaign at Dataran Pahlawan Mega Mall here yesterday.

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