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Tuesday, April 20, 1999 Published at 16:04 GMT 17:04 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Dog slaughter follows pig cull

The outbreak ravaged the $400m pork industry

Malaysian officials have begun slaughtering stray dogs in an attempt to stamp out a new pig-borne disease that has killed nearly 100 people this year.

The BBC's Frances Harrison: There are fears the disease may have spread to other animals
The authorities also plan to test "every species imaginable" to eradicate the rare form of viral encephalitis.

The moves follow the recent slaughter of nearly a million pigs in the states of Negeri Sembilan, Perak and Selangor.

Until now pigs were thought to be the only animals to contract the Nipah virus, named after the village where it was first found.

[ image: Pigs are buried in a mass grave]
Pigs are buried in a mass grave
But Veterinary Services Department Director-General Nordin Mohd Nor said at least two dogs in Negeri Sembilan had tested positive, raising fears other animals could be carrying the disease.

Mr Nordin said the dogs may been infected by eating the carcasses of buried pigs.

Soldiers are now killing stray dogs around affected pig farms in the south west of the country and vets are screening pet dogs, he added.

Running after rats

All other animal species around the worst-hit areas will also be tested.

The authorities have so far taken blood samples from rats, birds, goats, cattle and wild animals including bats.

[ image: VIllagers fled their homes as the virus took hold]
VIllagers fled their homes as the virus took hold
"We are keeping our options open. We have people looking at every species imaginable in affected areas," Mr Nordin said. "We have people running after rats.''

A national campaign to test all pig farms in other Malaysian states is scheduled to begin next week, he added.

Health officials first mistook the disease for Japanese encephalitis.

But the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention then detected the Nipah virus, a strain similar to the very rare Hendra virus discovered in Australia in 1994.

Symptoms are the same for both - high fever, aches, eventual coma and death.

The Malaysian Government has promissed a $10m compensation scheme for pig farmers affected by the outbreak which has ravaged the country's $400 million pork industry.

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