- The Malaysian army and police have been
called in to help shoot more than 100,000 pigs thought to be carrying the
deadly Japanese encephalitis virus, following an outbreak of the disease
which is transmitted from pigs to humans via mosquitoes.
- Many farms have been abandoned as people
flee infected regions. Officials say 33 people have died of the virus in
the western state of Negri Sembilan in the last fortnight, most of them
pig farmers or their families. Fifteen people have died in other states.
- The virus, known as the `plague of the
Orient', causes inflammation of the brain. Three hundred thousand people
and half a million pigs are to be vaccinated, but there are fears that
this is a new strain against which there is no protection. Panic has broken
out in Negri Sembilan, which has some of the biggest pig farms in south-east
Asia. Towns lie deserted, with houses, schools and supermarkets padlocked.
- Only 10 men remain in the village of
Sungai Nipah and at night they all sleep on the floor of the Chinese temple,
hoping for divine protection from the mosquitoes which carry the virus.
Sungai Nipah won an award three years in a row for being the best-kept
Chinese village in Malaysia - now its last residents describe it as a ghost
- Farmers are facing bankruptcy after generations
in the pig business. Malaysia's £250 million pork business has been
hit hard by fears that the meat is unsafe to eat, despite reassurances
by the government. Sales are said to have slumped by between 40 and 70
- A 35-year-old farmer committed suicide
last week by drinking weedkiller after he failed to sell his pigs and could
not get credit to buy feed for them.
- Unable to care for their animals because
the workforce has fled, farmers are resorting to killing their pigs. The
stench of carcasses not properly disposed of has led to fears of a fresh
outbreak of disease.
- The opposition leader, Lim Kit Siang,
has urged the government to compensate farmers and declare a national emergency
to deal with the health scare. 'I feel total despair and utter helplessness
to see people dying like flies one after another, day by day,' said Mr
Lim, who accused the government of doing too little, too late.
- The minister of health, Chua Jui Meng,
said: 'The cabinet has agreed in principle that some kind of humanitarian
assistance be given to pig farmers, but the cabinet wants to make it clear
there will be no compensation.'