Sunday, July 19, 2015

Dengue cases in Penang triple last year’s, says deputy health minister

NIBONG TEBAL, July 18 — The number of dengue fever cases in Penang this year up to yesterday was 2,990, more than triple that of the corresponding period last year, said Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya.
The number of cases for the corresponding period last year was only 982, he said.
Penang remained at fourth place among the states with a large number of cases, after Selangor, Johor and Perak, he told reporters after handing over Aidilfitri goodies to staff of the Sungai Bakap Hospital here.
Dr Hilmi said the responsibility of fighting dengue rested with everyone and all should cooperate to check the breeding of the Aedes mosquito, carrier of the dengue virus.
“Penang has a similar situation as Selangor, with a large number of construction sites that offer the perfect breeding ground for the Aedes mosquito,” he said.
Dr Hilmi urged the local authorities to step up enforcement to ensure that construction sites were free of the breeding grounds of mosquitoes.
He said that as of yesterday, the number of dengue fever cases for the whole country this year stood at 64,473, much higher than the 47,871 cases for the corresponding period last year.
Dr Hilmi also said that the ministry was drafting legislation for smokers as well as tobacco products, covering also electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes.
“The process (of bringing the draft legislation to the Attorney-General’s Chambers and Cabinet) will take time because it involves many stakeholders.
“One of the proposals is to introduce tighter control on cigarette advertisements including cigarette racks behind the cash registration counter in shops,” he said. — Bernama

Sunday, July 12, 2015

New hope for liver cancer patients

BorneoPost Online 

SGH among 29 centres in Asia-Pacific set to undertake clinical trial on cutting-edge therapy
C_PC0006796KUCHING: Sarawak General Hospital (SGH) has become the first public hospital under the Health Ministry (MOH) in the country to conduct a clinical trial on the ‘Yttrium-90 Resin Microspheres’ therapy for liver cancer patients.
The cutting-edge systemic oral chemotherapy was disclosed by Dr Law Chiong Soon, a nuclear medicine physician during an interview with thesundaypost here yesterday.
“SGH would be able to take in liver cancer patients for this trial soon,” said Dr Law.
The multi-discipline team involved at SGH comprises Dr Law himself, hepato-pancreto-billary surgeon Nik Azim Nik Abdullah, interventional radiologist Dr Ahmad Faizal Mohammad Ali and clinical oncologist Dr Yu Kong Leong.
The coordinator of the clinical trial is Prof Pierce Chow, who is senior consultant of the Surgical Oncology Division, National Cancer Centre Singapore. The visiting expert, who was assisting in the site initiation at SGH over the weekend, said two research studies were held concurrently in the world today – one in Asia-Pacific and another in Europe, namely France.
He also disclosed that SGH was one of 29 centres in the Asia-Pacific that had been selected to undertake this clinical trial.
So far, 320 patients have been admitted to undergo the trial which can only admit another maximum of 40 before the programme closes, hopefully by the end of this year.
Prof Chow said there had been many hurdles for Dr Law to overcome, but with his determination, Sarawak was able to get onboard.
“I am happy that SGH has made it for the trial, which will definitely benefit the people of Sarawak,” said Prof Chow, a former student of St Joseph’s School Kuching.
The main objective of the clinical trial is to compare the effectiveness between the two treatments for inoperable advanced localised liver cancer.
According to him, the clinical trial for liver cancer patients are currently using Sorafenib – an oral therapy – and Yttrium-90 Resin Microspheres, which is classified as a medical device that is injected into the cancerous tumour.
Both treatments could be applied for patients with inoperable advance localised cancer in BCLC Classification stages B and C.
“Little clinical research has been done to determine which of the two treatments is better,” said Prof Chow, adding that studies in the West have shown that Yttrium-90 Resin Microspheres to be more effective.
However, he mentioned that liver cancers here were largely caused by Hepatitis B, while those in the West were caused by Hepatitis C and alcohol.
“So, more studies need to be done to see if Yttrium-90 Resin Microspheres is as effective here. An earlier study on 103 advanced liver cancer patients from 2008 to 2012 seemed to show that Yttrium-90 Resin Microspheres might work even better on Asians than Caucasians,” he said.
Prof Chow indicated that more studies would be required; hence, the ongoing clinical trial held across the Asia-Pacific.
“By the end of next year, we would receive the outcome of this clinical research – one that will contribute in deciding which therapy is more suitable for a particular patient,” he added.
Liver cancer showed no symptoms in the early stage and by the time there are symptoms, the disease tended to be in at least within BCLC Stage B or C.
There are specific high-risk groups for liver cancer but the disease could strike anyone.
The key risk group in Malaysia is the chronic Hepatitis B carriers. The most viable way to lower the risk of contracting liver cancer is thus, to undergo immunisation for Hepatitis B.
If one is already a carrier, then it is crucial to go for six-monthly surveillance with ultrasound as well as a blood test for the cancer marker Alfa-Feto protein.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Najib: Medical tourism expected to rake in RM1bil this year

PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia's medical tourism industry continues to rake in more income for the country, with RM1bil expected to come from healthcare travellers this year.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak (pic) said medical tourism would be made "a priority area" for Malaysia so it could be the best in the region.
"Malaysia's share of the medical tourism market has nearly doubled in the last four years.
“In 2014, it reached 770,000 patients, bringing in revenue of around RM700mil.
“This year, those figures are expected to rise further to 930,000 patients, and a revenue of RM1b.
"Compared with one of our neighbouring countries, we still have a long way to go.
“I intend to make this our priority area to enhance our competitiveness in the field of medical tourism," said Najib, during the launch of the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA)'s "Fifty-Five Years 1959-2014" book at the Prime Minister's office Tuesday.
He also expressed hope that the MMA will give its cooperation in giving the medical tourism industry a boost.
Present at the launch were Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam and MMA president Dr Ashok Zachariah Philip.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Plans to increase cigarette prices, smoke-free zones, says health minister

Malaysia has adopted two strategies so that the country will eventually achieve a smoke-free zone, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam.

One is to increase, in stages, the smoke-free zones in the country and the other, to reduce the number of places where cigarettes are allowed to be sold, he said.

"These are two of the strategies to control and reduce the number of smokers.

“Eventually, we are hopeful that the country can be declared a smoking-free zone although we do not know when that can be realised.”

Subramaniam said another long-term measure was to raise the price as well as the duty on cigarettes.

He said that as a ministry responsible for maintaining the health of the people, it was only proper that greater restrictions on smoking be enforced at the ministry itself.

As such, he said, since the monitoring of and enforcement of restrictions on smoking were implemented at the ministry on May 1, 13 notices pertaining to offences and seven warnings had been issued.

All staff at the ministry who smoke had been instructed to attend programmes to give up the habit and staff who did not smoke were educated on the dangers of cigarette smoke, he said. – Bernama, June 24, 2015.

Fake rice allegation was untrue, baseless

\New Straits Times

PUTRAJAYA: Health Ministry clarified allegations that a rice producing factory in Kedah produces fake rice was untrue and baseless. "Based on our checks in the factory, we found that allegations on the factory is untrue," said the ministry's director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah. With the clarification, he advised the public not to be worried as monitoring and enforcement of food safety activities were constantly being carried out to ensure food sold in the market was safe. "If consumers are worried and uncertain about the safety status of food in the market, consumers can make a complaint to the Ministry of Health through state health departments and offices or make an online complaint at or health ministry's official Facebook page," he added. Dr Noor Hisham said the ministry takes serious of any allegation in regards of food safety and now the alleged fake rice from China which has gone viral on social networking sites. Adding further, he said the issue has already been clarified by PadiBeras Nasional Berhad (Bernas) and the ministry has issued a statement last May 21 that a majority rice import were from Vietnam, Thailand and Pakistan. "Rice import from China is very small, less than 0.01 per cent compared to 800,000 tonnes of rice a year. "Rice from China is usually on request for use in Japanense and Koren food restaurant in Malaysia," he added.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

31 healthcare facilities damaged after Sabah quake, says minister

The earthquake, which struck Sabah on June 5 and the following aftershocks, damaged 31 healthcare facilities, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam.

Of the total, 11 were in Ranau, comprising five rural clinics, four health clinics and the Ranau Hospital quarters while damage in Tuaran involved a health clinic, a maternal and child health clinic and six rural clinics, he said.

Nine healthcare facilities damaged in Kota Belud were the government hospital, a health clinic and seven rural clinics, he added.

Subramaniam said that in Papar, a maternal and child health clinic and a rural clinic were damaged while in Putatan a health clinic was damaged.

"The ministry will work with the Public Works Department to ascertain the damage. If forensic examination finds the buildings to be unsafe, we will build new facilities.

"If the structure of the buildings are safe and only require repair, then we will repair the buildings," he said in Ranau, Sabah today.

Badly damaged facilities had to be vacated.

Subramaniam said the operation of a rural clinic in Kelawat, Tuaran, had to be transferred to nearby premises due to severe cracks on the building.

"Health services in all the affected areas operated as usual although we had to relocate to other premises.”

Asked about the construction of health facilities in areas at high risk of earthquake such as Ranau and Kundasang, he said the ministry would seek advice from the Meteorological Department, the Minerals and Geoscience Department and other agencies. – Bernama, June 25, 2015.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Spike in dengue cases highest ever in Malaysia


KUALA LUMPUR - The spike in the number of dengue cases this year is the highest in Malaysia's history and the problem could be endemic, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam.
There have been twice as many deaths this years compared to last year with 157 fatalities in the first six months, and more than 40,000 cases, an increase of more than 30 per cent.
He said the ministry was expecting a larger number of cases this year with a new serotype infecting humans. There are four dengue serotypes.
Dr Subramaniam said the ministry was facing a big challenge with dengue and urged the people to work with them to eradicate it.
Speaking at his ministry's buka puasa function with the media, he said more patients were coming in for treatment for a second time, and were suffering from pneumonia, liver failure, brain failure and other more complicated problems unlike before when patients had spots and bleedings.
"We are looking at different serotype viral infections. Many people are getting dengue for the second time. If you get it again, then it is serious," he said.
"There is what we call immune damage."
Dr Subramaniam said there were proper vaccines to deal with all four different serotypes.
"Patients can get infected by dengue up to four times," he said.
He said the ministry had no cure for dengue but were controlling it and was conducting checks at construction sites with municipal councils, state health departments and state governments to ensure that mosquitoes do not breed in these areas.
On the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Dr Subramaniam said Malaysia was ready to contain any outbreak if the disease spreads here.
"Surveillance is there and I can assure you the Health Ministry has the ability to handle MERS. Our people have the expertise and knowledge to make sure it does not spread."

Monday, June 22, 2015

Anti-dengue kits for high risk states

The Star

PETALING JAYA: A new anti-dengue kit will be distributed to communities in three states with the highest recorded number of cases this year.

A total of 100,000 kits – each containing a Mousticide biolarvicide that kills aedes larvae, a Denguard mosquito repellent and ALOT Aedes Larvae Ovitrap that traps mosquitoes into breeding in the treated water and kills the larvae – will be given out.

The kits are part of the Dengue-Free Community programme, launched by the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry in collaboration with Inno Biologies and Entogenex.

The two companies, which are responsible in providing the technology used in the programme, will be overseeing the implementation of the project.

Minister Datuk Dr Ewon Ebin called the collaboration a positive step for the country’s biotechnology industry.

“I am very proud to see local organisations that are far sighted and innovative in coming up with environmentally friendly solutions to problems faced by the community,” he said in his speech, which was read out by the ministry deputy secretary-general (Science) Dr Zulkifli Mohamed Hashim yesterday.

A dengue-free squad, he said, would also be set up in high-risk neighbourhoods with the help of the local councils and which would be trained to use the kit to combat the scourge.

The kits will be distributed in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Johor between this month and September.

Organisers claimed that they were expecting a 100% success rate from the programme, adding that they estimated to see results within a month.

Entogenex executive director Tunku Naquiyuddin Tuanku Jaafar said the products had been sold in Singapore and Philippines, where it had shown good results.

“The programme is holistic and very targeted in combating dengue. We will be using a four step plan, known as REAP – reduce, educate, activate and prevent,” he said.

He said while the Government could introduce many programmes to fight against dengue, the community still played a big role.

“The onus is on the community to ensure that their backyard is not a breeding ground,” he said.

Hundreds get free HPV vaccine

The Star

KUALA LUMPUR: Hundreds of young women turned up to take advantage of MCA’s drive to protect them from cervical cancer at Wisma MCA’s Dewan San Choon.

In an event jointly coordinated by Wanita MCA and the National Population and Family Development Board (LPPKN) here yesterday, women aged 18 above received free vaccinations against the human papillomavirus (HPV).

“This is the fourth such event this year,” said Wanita MCA chief Datuk Heng Seai Kie, who emphasised the importance of receiving the vaccination during her speech at the HPV vaccination programme themed Catch Them Early, Keep Them Healthy.

“In Budget 2012, millions of ringgit were allocated towards a free HPV vaccination programme in order to help prevent cervical cancer in this ‘catch-up’ group of 18-year-olds,” said Heng.

She added that cervical cancer was the third most common cancer among women after breast and colorectal cancer.

Heng also said that cervical cancer, which can be caused by HPV, was particularly prevalent in deve­loping nations.

“In the spirit of 1Malaysia, this is for everybody, regardless of race and religion,” said Heng, who encouraged young women to invite their friends to get the vaccination.

“We must pay particular attention to those in the 18- to 23-year-old range as they often do not get their vaccinations.

“We must also work to ensure that they complete their three doses within a six-month period,” she said, adding that LPPKN and Wanita MCA would send out reminders to yesterday’s participants when they are due for their follow-up doses.

LPPKN’s HPV vaccination programme for women is free, and a list of clinics offering the jab is available on LPPKN’s website. Public university students can also receive the vaccine from their university’s health centre.