[news]Nipah Virus probe team honoured with Merdeka Award

Zoonotic Diseases are diseases caused by infectious agents that can be transmitted between (or are shared by) animals and humans.

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[news]Nipah Virus probe team honoured with Merdeka Award

Postby Tanin » Wed Sep 10, 2008 1:30 pm

<source: The star>

PETALING JAYA: The courage shown by the investigation team dealing with the highly infectious Nipah Virus, an unknown disease in 1999 with no known cure and rapidly fatal, was exemplary, said Universiti Malaya Medicine Faculty’s Prof C.T. Tan.
Prof Tan: "This award is an affirmation of the good work that we have done"

Prof Tan, who headed the Nipah Virus Investigating Team in 1999, after the outbreak started in 1998, said it was “the entire team’s effort” which led to their success in identifying the virus and bringing it under control.

“Initially, the virus was thought to be the Japanese encephalitis (JE) carried by mosquitoes.

“But we found that it was not JE, and that this virus spread directly from pigs to humans, the solution was to cull the infected pigs to stop the spread of the virus. And then the infection came under control,” he said.

Prof Tan and his team, consisting of specialists and researchers from the fields of virology, neurology, pathology, radiology, infectious diseases and intensive care, were joint recipients of the Merdeka Award under the Health, Science and Technology Category. The Star is the official media of the Merdeka Awards.

“I’m very, very pleased. This award is very meaningful for our team and an affirmation of the good work that we have done,” Prof Tan said in an interview last Wednesday.

They were honoured for their “contribution in the understanding of the causes, effects and control of the Nipah encephalitis viral infection”, which had infected 350 people, and killed 105 persons.

The other recipient of the award in the same category was Prof Datuk Dr Khalid Kadir.

Both teams received a certificate, a trophy and one half of the RM500,000 cash prize.

Prof Tan, a neurologist whose main work is on epilepsy, said the team had also worked out the management strategy and treatments of the infection.

In the scientific world, the team has received international recognition with their journals published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Lancet, Annals of Neurology, American Journal of Pathology and Journal of Virology.

They have also been made World Health Organisation (WHO) consultants, and were in Bangladesh in 2004 during a Nipah encephalitis outbreak there.

Asked what his team planned to do with the RM250,000 award money, Prof Tan said the money could be used for projects that they have problems getting funding for.

“This is our recognition outside the scientific world. It’s a great morale boost for good science,” he said.
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