Pig blood samples taken

Collecting specimens: State veterinary officer Dr Nabilah Abdul Talib taking blood samples of pigs at a farm in Kampung Selamat in Tasek Gelugor.

KEPALA BATAS - Blood samples of pigs were taken in Kampung Selamat to determine whether the latest Japanese Encephalitis case was caused by those animals in the village.

State Veterinary Department director Dr Johari Abu Bakar said 40 officers were sent to 19 pig farms located within a 1.5km radius of SK Kampung Selamat to collect blood samples.

"A total of 190 samples were taken and sent to the department's laboratory in Bukit Tengah and Ipoh. The results are expected to be known on Friday.

"For the time being, our department will closely monitor the Kampung Selamat pig farms, which have more than 10,000 such animals," he said when contacted yesterday.

Year Six pupil Muhammad Ammar Muqrish Zulkifli from SK Kampung Selamat in Tasek Gelugor, But­terworth, was believed to have contracted JE while on a camp programme organised by the school at its premises in April.

Pig farmer Teoh Chiew Seong, 72, said there should be no finger-pointing before the blood test results are out so that any public anxiety can be avoided.

"No one can confirm whether the disease originated from the pigs here (Kampung Selamat). Pigs are not the only animals which carry the JE virus. It can also be from birds or even cows or goats (through its vector, the Culex mosquito).

"However, pig farmers here are willing to cooperate with the authorities by allowing them to collect blood samples from the pigs for test," he said, adding that there were about 700 families staying in Kampung Selamat, of which 80 were involved in pig farming activities.

Doctors said Muhammad Ammar was out of danger but the disease had damaged his brain.

Consultant neurologist Dr Wong Yee Choo said that the boy suffered permanent oral disability, was unable to talk or walk and in a semi-conscious state.

"His fever is under control but the infection has damaged his brain and he suffers from occasional seizures.

"He will have to undergo rehabilitation. Even then, he may never fully recover," he said when met at Pantai Hospital in Bayan Baru.

Muhammad Ammar's mother Haniza Ayob, 40, who is a factory worker, said she had accepted that her son would need constant care.

"My eldest child can open his eyes and move his hands but he is unable to say anything to us.

"My husband works as a factory supervisor. We are at our wit's end as we have already spent RM87,000 (S$33,801) for his treatment.

"I do not know how we are going to come up with more money," she said at the hospital.

They have four other children.

State Health Committee chairman Dr Afif Bahardin said the state government would see what it could do to provide financial help to the family.

On the pig farms being the possible cause of JE, he said he would work with the local council and state health department to conduct tests before deciding on the next course of action.