Melaka virus needs a new name

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Health officials in Malaysia who had christened a newly discovered bat virus the 'Melaka Virus' will have to come up with another name after a protest from some government ministers.

The bat virus was originally given the name 'Melaka' because it was first identified last year in a man and two of his children who were living in Bemban, Melacca.

It is a type of reovirus which was discovered in the 1950s but was never known to have any disease associated with it.

Disease experts say there are parallels between the Melaka virus and the deadly SARS virus, which bats can also carry; bats also carry rabies.

The Melaka virus is not believed to be a killer virus, but the symptoms of fever and respiratory illness are severe and it is easily passed on to others.

The Melaka virus represents a new trend of infectious diseases coming from animals, known as zoonotic viruses.

Experts believe the man had been exposed to a bat that flew into his home and it is suspected he then passed the virus on to his children.

The Melaka bat virus is characterized by respiratory distress, and a high fever but according to Health Minister Dr. Chua Soi Lek it will now be given a different name.

The Health Minister says the virus will be named based on a list of guidelines drafted by an international committee and the name could possibly be connected to the place where the patient infected with the virus is from.

Dr. Chua says it was not the intention of the ministry to insult Melacca when it named the virus after the state but other similar viruses such as the Nipah and Tioman viruses were named after the places where they were discovered.

According to Dr. Chua, several medical journals published in the United States have already referred to the virus as the Melaka Virus.

Health Ministry scientist Professor Dr. Chua Kaw Bing, who is from the region, discovered all the three viruses.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam who led the protest says if possible the virus will be renamed as they do not wish the good name of the state to be tarnished in this way.

Mohd Ali has urged the ministry to retract the use of the name immediately saying Malacca is a good state, beautiful and peaceful and not the birthplace of diseases.

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