Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Foreign Doctors Don't Have Expected Expertise, Says Dr Latiff

JOHOR BAHARU, Feb 28 (Bernama) -- Some of the approximately 700 doctors serving in the country do not meet the expected service quality, said Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad.
Some of the doctors were also found to be without the expertise which they claimed to have, he said.
Speaking to reporters after presenting aid amounting to RM411,519 under the Medical Aid Fund to 12 patients at the Sultanah Aminah Hospital here Tuesday, he said the government had however ceased to employ foreign doctors since two years ago.
Also present at the function were Johor Local Government and Health Committee Chairman Datuk Halimah Mohammed Sadique and State Health Director Dr Daud Rahim.
On the shortage of doctors in government hospitals, Abdul Latiff said the ministry was considering making it compulsory for medical graduates to serve with the government for a certain period before they could seek employment with the private sector.
He said the matter would be discussed with the Public Service Department.

Sharp rise in infertility

Star: PETALING JAYA: Late marriages, modern-day stress and a lower sperm count have led to a high number of infertility cases in Malaysia.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said there was an estimated 300,000 couples in Malaysia in the 20 to 40 age group experiencing some form of infertility, which could be a contributing factor towards the nation's declining birth rate.
Thus, there was a potentially large demand for fertility services, as there was only about one fertility specialist to every 7,500 infertile couples, he said.
“According to the Department of Statistics, our birth rate has dipped to 19.6 babies per 1,000 persons last year compared with more than 20 babies previously.
“To date, we have three public and 20 private centres offering test-tube baby services in one way or another. Of the 450 practising obstetricians and gynaecologists, about 40 have had training in assisted conception procedures, which represents the 1:7,500 ratio,” he said at the Tropicana Medical Centre (TMC) groundbreaking ceremony here yesterday.
The fertility centre is expected to be operational in 2008.
According to a 2002 World Health Organisation report, infertility affected 80 million people worldwide and an estimated one in 10 couples.
“One of the key criteria in determining the selection of a fertility treatment centre is the pregnancy rate, which served as an acceptable measure of its success,” said Dr Chua, who urged local in-vitro fertilisation centres to have transparency by reporting their pregnancy rates.
Dr Chua said health tourism had been identified as one of the economy's growth catalysts but cautioned of stiff competition from countries such as Thailand, Singapore and Hong Kong.
“Health tourism has great potential here due to our skills and expertise, reasonable prices and our multiracial environment but it is important to have a centre that offers a niche market, which gives us an advantage over the others.
In the first three quarters of last year, foreign patient arrivals increased by 33% over that in 2004 to 172,313.
Income from these arrivals went up by 13% to RM109mil.
“But this is a gross underestimate of the health tourism's economic value as some private hospitals refused to cooperate with us by furnishing data on patients, treatment and revenue, which we need to formulate strategies for health tourism,” he said.
“Some say they do not have the time or any foreign patients but we do not believe them. Maybe they are worried that their information will be shared with their competitors.”
Dr Chua hoped that an administrative condition could be placed in the Private Healthcare Facilities Act to require private hospitals to provide such information.
Owned by TMC Life Sciences Bhd, TMC is a specialist centre for women and children that focuses on obstetrics and gynaecology.

All 15 admitted cleared of bird flu

Star: PETALING JAYA: All the 15 people who were admitted to the Kuala Lumpur Hospital last week for suspected avian flu tested negative for the H5N1 virus and have been discharged.
There were, however, two new admissions since Sunday. One was a 13-year-old girl who lives within the 300m radius of the area in Jalan Genting Lama, Setapak. She was admitted yesterday afternoon after she showed flu-like symptoms.
The other case involved a 17-year-old girl from the Klang Valley who voluntarily checked into the hospital on Sunday after she became sick and was worried because she had been in contact with chickens.
“Although she is not from the affected area, we have isolated her and are testing her for the virus as a precautionary measure,” Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said at the Tropicana Medical Centre ground-breaking ceremony here yesterday.
Dr Chua said so far, no one had been infected with the deadly H5N1 virus and urged the public not to overreact.
The ministry is now entering its second phase of monitoring, which involves passive surveillance.
“Our first phase of going from house to house within the 300m radius of the affected area has been completed. We are now in the second passive phase where we monitor residents of certain houses, such as those admitted into hospital and discharged,” he said.
Dr Chua said the Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Ministry would make an announcement when the country was free of bird flu.
In Sabah, the police and Customs Department were intensifying efforts to prevent smuggling of poultry into the state to ensure the state remained free of bird flu.
Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Mangsor Ismail said overland smuggling trails in the southern part of the state, such as at remote Pagalungan in Keningau district, were being closely watched.
“Our personnel manning roadblocks at entry points have been extra vigilant in checking the smuggling of any type of fowl into Sabah,” he said.

Smelly water irks residents

Star: PETALING JAYA: The Star received hundreds of complaints of smelly tap water over the past two days from residents in the Klang Valley.
They phoned to say they couldn't drink, wash or cook with the water and some of them also said the water smelled of faeces.
The calls came from all over the Klang Valley, including Gombak, Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya, Klang, Shah Alam, Kuala Selangor, Hulu Selangor and Kuala Langat – areas where water is supplied from Sungai Selangor.
In response to the complaints, Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (Syabas) said that dirty water from rivers and ponds, which overflowed into Sungai Selangor following the heavy rain on Sunday morning, caused the problem.
In a statement yesterday, Syabas said the overflow had caused an increase of ammonia in the raw water source from Sungai Selangor.
The operators at the three water treatment plants in Sungai Selangor had to increase the level of chlorine to bring down the ammonia level in the raw water – and the high chlorine content was what made the water smelly.
Syabas chief operations officer Lee Miang Koi said Syabas has informed the Selangor government of the source of the polluted raw water, since the supply of raw water was under the state’s jurisdiction.
Lee said Syabas has urged the state government to conduct a thorough study of Sungai Selangor and determine the cause of the sudden increase of ammonia in the river.
“Consumers need not worry. Based on tests done, treated water supplied to consumers is safe as it followed the standards set by the Health Ministry,” he added.
Currently, the ammonia level at the water source is back to normal and the overall situation is expected to return to normal in a day or two.

Centralised Poultry Slaughtering And Storage To Prevent H5N1 Spread

KUALA LUMPUR, 27 Feb (Bernama) -- The Federal Territories Ministry will propose to the government the setting up of a centralised slaughtering and storage of poultry to contain the future spread of the Avian Influenza H5N1 virus.
Its minister, Datuk Zulhasnan Rafique said at present, the poultry could be taken anywhere in the city to be slaughtered.
"Perhaps, one pro-active measure which we can take is by having a centre for slaughtering of poultry," he told reporters after a visit to the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) Avian Influenza Operation Room at Setapak here Monday.
Zulhasnan said he would raise the matter to the Cabinet.
Meanwhile, Kuala Lumpur Mayor Datuk Ruslin Hasan said City Hall did not have problems to allocate space for Bumiputera traders to operate at Jalan Petaling adding that this was done in the 1970s.
"There were about 10 to 20 Bumiputera traders but they were unable to carry out their business then.
"Perhaps, time has changed. If there is room and they (Bumiputera) want to, it will not be a problem for us," he added.
He was commenting on a statement by the Malaysia Dakwah and Welfare Organisation (Pekida) a few weeks ago which wanted other races to also be given space to carry out business at Jalan Petaling to overcome the problem of gangsterism.
Ruslin said he would meet representatives of Pekida to get clarification on the matter.

Water Smells Bad Due To Chemical Reaction, Says Syabas

KUALA LUMPUR, 27 Feb (Bernama) -- The unpleasant smell in piped water in Kuala Lumpur, Gombak, Petaling Jaya, Klang/Shah Alam, Kuala Selangor and Kuala Langat is due to the high ammonia content of water from Sungai Selangor which is the main water source to the affected areas, a statement issued by Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (Syabas) said Monday.
The situation is attributed to heavy rain which caused dirty water, including from ponds, to flow into Sungai Selangor.
The company said action had been taken to overcome the problem by increasing the chlorine content in the treatment of raw water.
"The chemical reaction resulted in the water to smell such," it added.
It assured consumers that the water was safe for use and that the company was monitoring the situation.
It also said the situation would return to normal in a day or two.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Clinics pushing drugs

Star: It is becoming increasingly easy for drug addicts to get their “fix" from certain clinics in Kuala Lumpur instead of from pushers. Many are turning to these new sources too because the supplies are cheap, constant and convenient.
“Of the 10 new inmates at our centre, at least three that I know of used to buy their fix at clinics,” said Kevin (not his real name), 41, who is undergoing rehabilitation at a centre in Cheras.
He showed StarMetro three types of pills he bought from a clinic in Kajang recently. These were in green, blue and white and each was about the size of two rice grains. They were packed in white plastic packets that did not bear the clinic's name.
According to Kevin, the blue pill sold at RM2 to RM3 each. “It is a normal sleeping pill, but when consumed in large quantities – about 10 at a time – it will make one go on a 'high' as though he has taken Ecstasy pills," he said.
The green pill also sells for RM2 to RM3 each. It is normally taken with methamphetamine crystals (also known as Ice).
The white pill sells at RM11 for a 2mg pill and RM30 for a 8mg pill. It makes one feel as though he has taken drugs. Kevin said some addicts were prescribed medicine to help them rid of the habit.
“They are cheaper than the ones sold by pushers, and the effect is almost the same," he said. “Addicts know of the clinics by word of mouth."
The clinics are enjoying sudden surge of income. “Once when I was at a clinic, about 20 addicts were waiting for the doctor," said Keven.
It is easy to buy the pills, too.
“We need to write down our particulars the first time we visit the clinics. Then we see the doctor; he will sometimes hypocritically scold us and advise us not to take too much. Nevertheless, he will still sell the pills no matter how many times he has scolded us,” he said.
“For larger quantities, we need to see the doctor. If it is less than three pills, we can get it straight from the nurses at the counter.
“They know who we are."

Malaysian Medical Association (MMA)’s Substance Abuse Committee chairman Dr George Fernandez said the association was aware that the drugs were being abused and viewed the practice as serious breaches of the ethics and the Medical Act.
“The MMA has no punitive powers and can only expel a member if found guilty of such breaches. The Malaysian Medical Council (MMC), however, has the punitive powers. For the MMC to act against a registered medical practitioner, a complaint must be lodged against the medical practitioner and action will be taken against him,” Dr George said in an e-mail.
“The Health Ministry is aware of the abuses and it is a matter of time before these errant doctors are brought to book. Doctors found violating the Medical Act 1971 are punishable under Regulation 24 Dangerous Drug Act 1952 and are therefore liable to disciplinary proceeding under section 29(2)(a).”
“The MMC has already charged several general practitioners under this regulation."
According to Dr George, the association was working closely with the Health Ministry in tackling the issue. It is also involved in the training of general practitioners in the treatment of substance abuse and addiction.
“So far, my committee has trained 480 general practitioners in substance abuse addiction and abuse. This, by the way, is the record highest number of doctors trained in substance abuse treatment in the world."
The blue pill is midazolam. It is a psychotropic drug that can be prescribed only by a registered medical practitioner. This drug is prescribed for insomnia in correct (small) doses. The MMA is aware that drug addicts are abusing this drug by crushing it and injecting it into their veins in combination with Heroin and other Amphetamine Type Substances for a quick fix.
The white pill is buprenorphine. It is being abused similarly. This is used in the treatment of heroin addiction in doses of between 2mg to 32mg a day.
It is still available but only in the 2mg strength. Doctors prescribing this and other psychotropic drugs have to follow strict guidelines and if caught in violation of the regulations, they will be severely punished by the MMC and even risk being struck off the register.
The green pill is not identifiable and is suspected to be a pill produced by backyard manufacturers to be sold to the drug addicts.

More People Exposed To Risk Of Cancer, Mental Illness

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 27 (Bernama) -- Studies done locally and abroad have shown that more people will be exposed to the risk of cancer and mental illness in the future, Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri Dr Fong Chan Onn said Monday.
Among the main causes were unhealthy lifestyle, stress at work and exposure to toxic materials due to increased industrialisation, he told reporters here.
He said that last year, 4,750 or 25 per cent of 19,000 applicants for Social Security Organisation (Socso) benefits were found to have cancer by its panel of doctors while 950 applicants (five per cent) suffered from mental illness.
In view of this, the ministry would launch a healthy lifestyle awareness campaign in collaboration with the Health Ministry to educate workers on the dangers of cancer and other work-related illnesses, he said.
"We've got awareness campaigns like those on road accidents and now we're looking for a healthy lifestyle awareness campaign on how we can alert workers on how to reduce the cause of the cancer. The workers are also coping with stress due to the working environment," he said.
Earlier, Dr Fong launched the second edition of "Guidelines On Impairment and Disability Assessment of Traumatic Injuries, Occupational Diseases and Invalidity", published by Socso's Medical and Rehabilitation branch.

Chua Chides Private Hospitals

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 27 (Bernama) -- Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek is disappointed with several private hospitals that have withheld the number of their foreign patients.
He said their refusal to divulge the information would retard the government's effort to promote medical services as one of the country's tourism products.
This should not have happened because the medical tourism sector had a high potential as Malaysia had expertise and skills that were on par with that of developed countries like the United Kingdom, United States and Singapore, he said.
"In terms of costs, it's cheaper and the fact that our country's population comprises various races means that we can accommodate people from any country," he said told reporters at Kota Damansara Monday.
Dr Chua said the ministry had not made it mandatory for private hospitals to disclose details like the number their foreign patients and the type of medical services they sought.
But a healthcare legislation that would be enforced this year would require private hospitals to do so comprehensively, he said.
He said the information would enable the government to draw up strategies to promote medical tourism.
According to the data provided by the Malaysian Private Hospitals Association, 174,189 foreign patients sought treatment at 27 private hospitals nationwide and generating revenue of RM104.98 million in 2004.
The number had since grown tremendously as in the first quarter of 2005 alone, the hospitals received 172,313 foreign patients and raked in RM109.0 million.
"A study conducted by the government in 2002 has forecast that the foreign patient market in the country will be worth RM2.2 billion by 2010," Dr Chua said.
Earlier, Dr Chua performed the ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of TMC Life Sciences Berhad's the Tropicana Medical Centre in Kota Damansara.
The medical centre on a 2.4ha site is expected to be completed in early 2008. When completed, it will house the Damansara Fertility Centre, among others.

Bird flu virus in KL confirmed subtype of the one found in Indonesia

Star: PUTRAJAYA: Tests by the Veterinary Research Institute in Ipoh has confirmed that the H5N1 strain of avian flu affecting the area in Jalan Genting Klang is a subtype of the one found in Indonesia.
Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said a reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction was carried to determine the DNA sequencing of the virus detected in chicken and fowl in the area.
“We confirmed that the virus is a subtype of the one affecting free range chicken (ayam kampung) in Indonesia,” he said.
However, Muhyiddin declined to speculate if the virus had been brought into the country through smuggled chicken or fowl smuggled in from Indonesia.
“Our policy is that the Government has banned any importation of chicken or other fowls from countries affected by the H5N1 strain of avian flu,” he pointed out.
There are squatter areas around Jalan Genting Klang – Kampung Pasir Wardieburn, Taman Danau Kota, Pekan Danau Kota and Kampung Belakang JPJ has been known to harbour illegal immigrants.

Warning to poultry owners: Six months’ jail and RM500 fine for refusal to co-operate

NST: Poultry owners in the bird flu-infected areas in Gombak who refuse to hand over their birds to the authorities can be sent to jail.
This warning was issued by Veterinary Services Department deputy director-general Dr Abdul Aziz Jamaluddin, who said those who refused to co-operate in efforts to contain the bird flu outbreak were breaking the law.
Although no one had been hauled up so far, he said it did not mean the department would not enforce the law.
"We can take action. Taking action against offenders is not a problem," he said at a Press conference at the City Hall Health Department in Setapak today.
Offenders may be charged under Section 90 of the Animal Ordinance 1953, which carries upon conviction a six-month jail term or RM500 fine or both.
Dr Aziz was speaking after a house-to-house search for chickens, with Indonesian workers’ kongsi as the main target, in Gombak.
"Our focus is to locate fighting cocks believed to be hidden by Indonesian workers in their kongsi and quarters."
He said the operation had been quite successful as to date, some 3,000 chickens had been caught in the area.
Dr Aziz said he was confident the four villages within a 1km radius of the bird flu-infected area off Jalan Genting Klang — Kampung Pasir Wardieburn, Taman Danau Kota, Pekan Danau Kota and Kampung Belakang JPJ — were now relatively free of chickens.
"Within that zone, the situation is under control. There is no need to worry. No ducks, no birds. We just need to monitor that no chickens from outside are brought in. For this, we need the help of the local authority."
Dr Aziz said a large team would be deployed for a further search tonight but declined to name the areas involved.
He said other strategies to round up birds in the affected zone were being devised.
Yesterday, the department introduced the use of blowpipes to shoot chickens resting in the trees, but the results were not encouraging.
"Tonight, we are going after the ‘superchickens’. These are the clever chickens, the ones that fly high and far.
"Now that we understand their behaviour, we can catch them using a different strategy," said Dr Aziz.
"Also, we may have to conduct checks at daybreak as the roosters’ crows will give away their position."
On the source of the bird flu, Dr Aziz said it was not as critical as rounding up all birds from the infected areas.

More info on bird flu soon

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: An announcement on the avian flu situation in Setapak here will be made in two weeks, said Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek.
He said the announcement would be made by the Veterinary Services Department as the matter involved fowls.
Dr Chua said passive surveillance on the area where the infected fowls were detected started last Saturday and would last two weeks before the situation is assessed again.
Passive surveillance means that the Government would act upon information, he added.
Active surveillance was carried out from Feb 20 for five days. A total 854 households were visited and 3,120 occupants interviewed within a 300m radius from where the infected fowls were detected.
He said there was no new case admitted to Kuala Lumpur Hospital here as of yesterday afternoon when the five who were warded earlier for suspected avian flu had been discharged.
Prior to this, 10 patients were also discharged after they tested negative.
Dr Chua said the admission was a precautionary measure, adding that there was still no clinical evidence that the disease could spread from human to human like SARS.
He urged the public not to be swayed by rumours.
Meanwhile, the Malaysian Red Crescent Society (MRCS) has distributed 5,000 leaflets containing background and information on how to prevent bird flu.
The leaflets were distributed to residents within a 10km radius from the location along Jalan Genting Klang where 40 chickens died of the H5N1 virus.
Some 55 MRCS volunteers went around Jalan Genting Klang, Kampung Pasir Wardieburn, Taman Danau Kota, Pekan Danau Kota and Kampung Datuk Keramat to hand out the leaflets yesterday.
MRCS operations director Mohd Kamal Omar said this was in line with the Health Ministry's move to educate the public about the disease.
He said two MRCS ambulances were on 24-hour stand-by to transfer anyone with flu symptoms to Kuala Lumpur Hospital.
“As a precautionary measure, we are not differentiating between ordinary flu and bird flu,” he said.

MMA: Glut of doctors by 2020

NST: It might not be easy to make a decent living in private medical practice by 2020.
The Malaysian Medical Association sees a worrisome glut of doctors by then, judging by present enrolments in medical courses here and abroad.
Datuk Dr N. Athimulam, chairman of the MMA’s committee on medical education, observed that 1,200 new doctors graduated annually from local institutions, with seven more institutions of higher learning going to offer medical courses in the next few years.
Dr Athimulam said universities in Ukraine and Russia were producing about 15 to 20 Malaysian doctors now, but several hundred students were in their third, fourth and fifth years of study.
The seven new colleges in the offing are Universiti Malaysia Sabah, Islamic University College Malaysia, Cyberjaya University College of Medical Sciences, the Asian Institute of Medicine, Science and Technology, Alliance College and Monash University Sunway Campus.
Dr Athimulam said the current doctor-population ratio of 1:1,361 was going to rise to 1:400 by 2020.
"At that ratio, doctors are going to be clamouring for patients. When the competition gets tougher, unscrupulous practices may set in."
There are about 17,000 doctors nationwide today, 40 per cent of whom are in government service.
"Already the market is saturated. New doctors entering the market are finding it harder to stay in the business."
The Malaysian Medical Council’s 2004 annual report states that at the current rate of growth, there would be a surplus of about 4,000 doctors in 2020.
Dr Athimulam urged the Government to "go slow" on permits for institutions of higher learning to conduct medical courses.
Meanwhile, MMC secretary Dr Wan Mazlan Mohamed Woojdy said degrees from some of the new institutions would only be recognised after five years of operation.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

No Human Cases Of Bird Flu, Says Chua

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 26 (Bernama) -- No one has been infected by the H5N1 virus since further tests on 15 people from the jalan Genting-Kelang area who were warded at Hospital Kuala Lumpur (HKL), were found to be negative, Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek announced Sunday.
He said the ministry since yesterday ended its active surveillance, which began in the 300 metre area at the incident where 40 chickens were confirmed to have died of the avian influenza virus last Sunday.
Instead, the ministry starting yesterday, began a passive surveillance whereby ministry personnel no longer conducted house-to-house checks except for cases where residents of an area had symptoms of the virus, he said to reporters at a ceremony to mark MCA's 57th anniversary at Wisma MCA here today.
Dr Chua said the passive surveillance would be continued for another two weeks.
The prevention and control operation conducted by the ministry together with other government agencies on 3,120 occupants of 854 houses in the 300 metre area, found no infection involving humans.
"As of yesterday, the total number of those suspected (still warded at HKL, the designated hospital for bird flu cases) were five people, that is, three children and two adults. Test results on the five were negative, and we hope that all five are allowed to go home today," he said.
Yesterday, Health Services Director General Datuk Dr Mohd Ismail said five people including three girls aged 4, 13 and 14, as well as a 44-year old man and a 40-year old woman, were admitted to the HKL's special ward Friday night after they showed symptoms of the deadly H5N1 virus infection, that is fever, cough and flu.
Dr Chua asked members of the public especially those residing in the Klang Valley not to be influenced by the wild rumours circulating that the bird flu virus had infected the people in the area.
"I would like to stress that the bird flu virus had not infected the people. I would like to assure that based on the Cabinet directive, we will give information on a transparent and open manner, and will not hide any cases related to bird flu," he said.
He said those reported so far were suspected cases based on information that they were residents of the area where 40 chickens had been infected with bird flu, and steps to ward them at the HKL, were only precautionary measures.
" After test results were found negative, the patients were allowed to return home," he said.

Sabah Vets On Bird Flu Alert

KOTA KINABALU, Feb 26 (Bernama) -- All veterinary officers in Sabah have been told to carry out inspections on farms breeding chickens and other birds statewide following a report that seven chickens were found dead in Kampung Bukit Permai, Menggatal, yesterday.
State Agriculture and Food Industry Minister Datuk Abdul Rahim Ismail said the immediate measure was crucial in ensuring Sabah remain free of bird flu.
"We've sent officers to Kampung Bukit Permai to take samples and bring them to a test laboratory in Kepayan.
"Even though the test result is negative, we've to take precautionary measures. I want all veterinary officers to inspect all areas that keep chickens stage by stage," he told Bernama here Sunday.
Besides that, bird controls and inspections at all entry points in Sabah would be tightened, he added.
Abdul Rahim also said Putrajaya yesterday informed the state authority of a report about the death of over 150 chickens in Kuala Penyu.
"Once informed, two special teams comprising veterinary officers, were rushed to Kuala Penyu but they have not been able to locate the farm. Probably it was a hoax," he said.
He advised the public not to worry as the ministry was closely monitoring the situation and would take all efforts to deal with the possible spread of bird flu to Sabah.
He said the ministry planned to organise a simulation session involving various government departments including the customs and immigration in the middle of next month in Tawau to strengthen the cooperation in preventing an outbreak of bird flu.

Migratory Birds In Sarawak Free Of Avian Flu

KUCHING, Feb 26 (Bernama) -- Migratory birds stopping to feed in the Buntal Peninsula, about 40km from here and near the popular Santubong beaches, were found free of avian flu in a recent census.
The census was conducted by the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Kuching Branch in collaboration with Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) Medical Faculty's microbiology department late last year.
Kuching MNS chairman Oswald Braken said Sunday the census recorded 230 species of birds in the forests and surrounding coastlines of the peninsula.
Such migratory birds were normally heading back north during the months of January and February after flying south before winter in search of feeding grounds, he told Bernama on the sidelines of a dialogue session with the media on the Santubong Peninsula organised by Kuching MNS.
Braken, who is also the Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) senior manager for biodiversity conservation, said another census on shore birds conducted by SFC in the coastal areas of Sematan at the southern tip of Sarawak also came up with negative results.
He said the Sematan census, which recorded 2,000 birds, was done between Dec 31 last year and Feb 10 as part of the biodiversity conservation effort.

Using an old method to deal with a new menace

NST: To achieve a "bird-free" zone around Kampung Pasir Wardieburn, the Veterinary Services Department tonight resorted to a rather unconventional method — a blowpipe.
Mohd Ulang Tipak, an Orang Asli from Gombak who is a VSD employee, was asked to test the efficiency of a blowpipe on chickens hiding in trees, using darts with tips laced with an anaesthetic.
However, the anaesthetic, which was a combination of medicine strong enough to knock out horses, proved ineffective.
"We had to chase the chickens which fell from the trees until the medicine took effect. We only managed to catch five or six, as there were times when I missed. Also, I did not know there would be so many chickens here and prepared only a few darts."
The 43-year-old Orang Asli said he needed help from two or three more of his friends to get the work done.
Ulang, though, may not get the opportunity as it is understood that the VSD is set to use small-calibre rifles tomorrow to flush the birds from the trees.
Meanwhile, starting as early as 7.30am, 40 swab teams swung into action for the third day to take fowl samples outside the one-kilometre radius.
Starting from the Veterinary Management Institute in Kajang, the teams, made up of five members each, set out to collect cloacal swabs from chickens, geese, ducks and other birds.
One such team was Team 2 led by Ghazali Awang Mel, 40. His team comprised three members from the Terengganu VSD and two Universiti Putra Malaysia Veterinary Faculty students.
"This is our third day out, and we have to say that the owners have all been very co-operative in allowing us to take samples from their fowls," he said.
Among the places his team covered today were Kampung Baru, Jalan Abdullah Yasin, Jalan Sungai Baru, Jalan Raja Abdullah and Jalan Raja Alang.
"We managed to take 31 samples today. We will send them to the institute to be tested."
Their last stop was KLCC, but no swabs were taken as there were no bird shops in the complex.
Veterinary Services Department’s disease control unit head Dr Kamaruddin Mat Isa said the results of the tests would be known within two to three days.

Bacterial infection killed over 10 fowls in Perak last week

Star: IPOH: The Perak Veterinary Services Depart-ment received between 10 and 15 reports of kampung chickens dying over the past week.
“The deaths are due to bacterial infection and not the H5N1 virus or avian influenza,” said the department's officer Dr Wan Mohd Kamil Wan Nik yesterday.
“We had responded immediately to each of the calls which came mainly from Batu Gajah and Chemor,” he added.
Dr Wan Mohd Kamil said the department was on the alert and would respond to reports of chicken deaths within 24 hours.
He added that the poultry farm in Taiping produced some one million eggs a day while the one in Bidor produced 850,000 eggs daily.
He noted that the public had been highly aware of chicken deaths and had been calling the department to report them.
“We are very happy with that, as the public can help us monitor the situation closely,” Dr Wan Mohd Kamil said.
He added that the public could call 05-5459111 or 05-5459122 or 05-5459133 to report chicken deaths in the state.
In Petaling Jaya, acting department director-general Datuk Dr Mustapa Jalil said tests were being conducted on the four dead birds found at Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman’s campus in Section 13.
In Kota Kinabalu, state Agriculture and Food Industry Ministry Minister Datuk Abdul Rahim Ismail said the seven chicken deaths at Kampung Bukit Permai in Menggatal here were not due the H5N1 virus.
However, the officers were still investigating claims of another 150 chicken deaths in Kuala Penyu.
“Two of our teams have been going to the various kampungs in Kuala Penyu but they have not been able to locate the place,” he said.

Preparation against bird flu

Star: PETALING JAYA: Triaging and strict infection guidelines similar to those enforced during the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome outbreak would be implemented in hospitals should there be an influenza pandemic.
The National Influenza Pandemic Preparedness Plan – the Government’s guidelines on how the country would react to influenza outbreaks including avian flu – said strict management of patients was needed to prevent the spread of the disease.
Triaging is the process of sorting people into groups based on the urgency of the need for immediate medical attention.
This would be handled at triage centres, which would be established at hospitals.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek had earlier announced that 36 hospitals nationwide would be equipped with the infrastructure and know-how to handle avian flu patients.
Other special infrastructure include negative-pressure isolation wards and facilities to get rid of contaminated material.
The guideline, dated November 2004, also said healthcare workers would be given top priority for vaccination in the event of a pandemic because healthcare sectors would be the country's first line of defence against the disease.
“Maintaining the health service response and the vaccine programme is central to the implementation of the response plan,” the 224-page document said.
It said essential service providers would be the next priority group after healthcare workers.
These would include the police, fire-fighters, armed forces, key emergency response decision makers, utility workers, funeral service and mortuary personnel.
The third group that will be given priority are those at a high-risk of severe or fatal outcomes following an influenza infection.
These include those in nursing homes, long-term care facilities and homes for the elderly; persons with high-risk medical conditions; persons over the age of 65; children aged between six months and 23 months; and pregnant women.
The document said the Government had been carrying out influenza surveillance since September 2003.
It said the number of visits that fit the definition of an influenza-like-illness from selected clinics and all Health Ministry outpatient clinics in the country had been recorded.
The Malaysian action plan is modelled after the World Health Organisation’s five levels of influenza pandemic alert.

30,000 new oral cancer cases a year

Star: According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 30,000 new cases of cancer of the oral cavity and pharynx were diagnosed each year.
MDA-CSCSP organising chairman Dr How Kim Chuan said that over 8,000 deaths were due to oral cancer.
“Preventing high risk behaviour such as cigarette smoking, cigar or pipe smoking and the use of smokeless tobacco is critical in fighting oral cancer.”
Health Ministry oral health division director Datuk Dr Wan Mohamad Nasir Wan Othman said the World Health Organisation reported that smoking-related diseases killed one in 10 adults globally, or four million deaths.
By 2030, if current trends continue, smoking will kill one in six people.
“According to our ministry’s records, it is estimated there were five million smokers in Malaysia in 2003. That makes up 22% of the population,” he said.

Youths say Tak Nak to advice from dentists

Star: Youths are discerning when it comes to what is cool and what is not.
Going to the dentist is definitely not cool. Receiving advice to quit smoking from the very same dentist is absolutely unimaginable.
“I hate my dental appointments. I hate cancelling on friends to go to the dentist. Now I'm going to hate my dentist,” said Wong Yen Ling, who has been smoking for a year.
She said her dentist had warned her regarding the stains on her teeth but since her circle of friends was heavy smokers, she finds that smoking “rocks.”
“I get a barrage of moans and advice every time I light up. There's no escaping it. And now you're telling me that my dentist is going to turn on me, too?” asked Lee Cheng Wern, a 20-year-old student who has been smoking for two years.
He said that he is aware of the ailments linked to this habit, the most significant being lung cancer, and that the Government has been trying to discourage smoking amongst youths through the Tak Nak campaign.
“I've been trying to quit but just can't seem to. I'll try again soon. Just don't tell me everyone is soon going to be an expert on anti-smoking,” he said.
More than 100 dentists have attended the Certified Smoking Cessation Service Provider (CSCSP) programme organised by the Health Ministry. The programme, meant to equip dentists with information on how to counsel smokers of the dangers of their habit, will soon be extended to 2,600 dentists nationwide.
“It feels like I'm in a tomb when at the dentist. Now it'll be a cemetery,” said 19-year-old Raja Soundar Vikram.
He explained that the droning of the dentist's voice and equipment feels like he is being lowered six feet under. With the implementation of CSCSP, other youths will share his feelings.
His friend, Krishnan Velu, said that just because the dentist's was the only place youths were forced to shut up and listen, it did not mean they had to pay heed to the dentist's message.
“You really think a dentist's advice will stop us from smoking? We've heard it all,” he said.
Syed Hafiz Hisham, 21, agreed.
“It's nothing new, simply an addition to what we hear and see almost everywhere,” said Syed Hafiz, adding that with more anti-smoking messages present, the more “numb” youths will become towards these messages.
However, some suggested that their peers might influence them to gradually stop smoking.
“I'd rather hear it from my friends. At least we get to discuss it,” said Amy Lam, 18.
She said that although it may not seem to be a sensitive subject, it appears so to the youths and they would appreciate the chance to talk about it openly with their peers.
So this is the verdict. Advice from one's dentist is totally uncool. It is not a fresh idea. It does not “rock.”
But if the advice were to come from acquaintances, then the chances of youths lending a keen ear may be higher.

Malaysians do not visit dentists often enough

Star: On average, 50% of Malaysians visit the dentist twice a year, according to the Malaysian Dental Association.
Its president Dr Shubon Sinha Roy said the figure was quoted by Health Ministry officials.
“The frequency of Malaysians visiting dentists is a far cry from developed countries when it comes to their dental care.
“Malaysians take dental care too lightly and only visit when they have problems or when tooth decay has reached an advanced stage,” he said.
Rural residents who make it to the dentist’s chair most often complain about physical or psychological pain, or simply when they need dentures done.
Urban residents who visited their dentists did so for the purpose of regular check-ups and also for health and cosmetic reasons such as fitting braces.
On why schoolchildren focused on their dental health in school and neglected it when they become adults, Dr Shubon said that mobile clinics went to the schools often, hence the dental hygiene of students were monitored more frequently.
“Due to the hectic pace of life of an adult they do not go to the dentist until they are in pain or when they have dental problems," he added.
He said that the association was trying to promote dental tourism.
“Our charges are far cheaper than in the Western countries. Dentistry in Malaysia is on par or even better than standards around the world."
Dr Shubon said that dental care could be taken seriously if companies extended dental coverage to all their employees, similar to medical coverage.

Adding more bite to drive

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Got you ... if you are a smoker and you end up on the dentist chair, be prepared to listen to more than just dental advice.
More than 2,600 dentists nationwide have been roped in to assist in the campaign to talk smokers out of smoking.
Their key message: “Don’t stain your teeth, fight gum disease, bad breath and stay away from cancer.”
The Malaysian Dental Association (MDA) launched a smoking cessation programme last week for dental practitioners across the nation to help and motivate patients to quit smoking as part of their oral health care.
So far, more than 100 dentists have already attended the Certified Smoking Cessation Service Provider (CSCSP) programme organised by the Health Ministry.
MDA president Dr Shubon Sinha Roy said the programme encouraged dentists to attend the course at anti-smoking clinics located around the country.
“We want to equip these dentists with background information on how to go about counselling smokers on the dangers of smoking,” he said.
Each year, around 10,000 Malaysians die as a result of heart disease, cancer, stroke and other numerous diseases that are believed to have a causal link to smoking. And oral cancer is one of the most common cancers.
The oral health effects of tobacco, in particular, are still largely ignored. They range from harmless staining of teeth to more severe periodontal disease (gum deterioration) threatening the loss of teeth.
“MDA hopes to make a positive impact on oral healthcare of the public by encouraging dental practitioners to help smokers quit,” said Dr Shubon.
He said dentists came across hundreds of patients with tobacco-related diseases and they were ideally positioned to provide brief and intensive intervention for smoking cessation.
He urged all dentists to enrol in the programme and to expand it into their clinical practices.
MDA’s objective for this year is to further establish dental practitioners as advocates of smoking cessation and to place dental hygiene on the frontline of smoking intervention.
The MDA-CSCSP programme primarily involves education and counselling which uses the 5As Approach (Ask, Advice, Assess, Assist, Arrange) and NRT (Nicotine Replacement Therapy) as a safe and effective aid to help dental patients quit smoking.
“NRT helps reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms, which come as a result of a physical dependence on nicotine,” said Dr Shubon adding that MDA worked closely with the Health Ministry in getting smokers to kick the habit.
Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad said dentists joining the programme could help smokers to quit.
“The MDA-CSCSP Programme should be a model for more smoking-cessation activities.
“Patients should stop smoking and to prevent the onset of smoking related diseases that will destroy their lives and that of their loved ones.”

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Dead birds scare at varsity

Malay Mail: Everyone at Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (Utar) were shocked when four birds fell from the sky and died at their Petaling Jaya campus yesterday.
Many thought the birds could have been affected by the H5N1 bird flu virus that killed several chickens in Setapak and Gombak last week.
A lecturer, who wished to remain anonymous, was one of the two who discovered the dead birds.
“I was heading back to campus after having lunch with a friend. Suddenly, I heard flapping sounds and the next thing I knew, these birds fell out of the sky. Three of them died on the spot while another was gasping for air.
“We didn’t immediately think about the bird flu virus. We then informed the university’s administration department and the security personnel.”
Utar officials declined to comment on the matter.
Janess Ong, a final year public relations student said the incident was scary.
“I was attending a lecture when it happened. All the students suddenly dashed to the window to find out what had happened as we heard a commotion outside.”
The 24-year-old said the spate of bird deaths had prompted her to take precautions such as abstaining from eating chicken and be more alert to the disease’s symptoms.
The varsity’s aministration informed the Veterinary Services Department but no team was sent to investigate.
The department’s acting director-general, Datuk Dr Mustapa Abdul Jalil, said there was nothing to worry about.
“The death of a few birds at the same time is common. It is different if a flock of birds died at the same time.
“If that happens, we will send a team immediately to investigate if it is caused by the bird flu virus.”
He said Utar’s Section 13/6 campus, where the birds were found, is more than 10km from Setapak and Gombak, which are the hotspots of the bird flu outbreak.
“The possibility of the area being infected is low,” he said.
“However, I will inform the Shah Alam Veterinary Department to look into the matter.”

More Dentists Needed

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 25 (Bernama) -- Malaysia will still face a shortage of dentists by 2020, Director-General of Health Datuk Mohamed Ismail Merican said Saturday.
He said the dentist population ratio in Malaysia, which stood at 1:9,560 last year, was still far from the projected 1:4,000 for the year 2020.
"In spite of three public dental schools, which is University of Malaya, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and Universiti Sains Malaysia, supplying dentists for this country, we are still short of the country's target," he said in his speech at the 13th FDI-MDA Scientific Convention and Trade Exhibition here.
Dr Ismail said the establishment of two additional private dental faculties -- the Penang International Dental College (PIDC) and Asian Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology (AIMST) -- was not expected to significantly improve the numbers.
Because of that, the Health Ministry would continue to look for more high quality dental schools, he said.
Dr Ismail said the shortage of dental care providers in rural areas, where the need was higher, was now a great concern to the ministry.
He said the public sector rendered care to about 40 per cent of Malaysians and made a special effort to help schoolchildren, and the private sector rendered oral healthcare to the remaining 60 per cent, mainly adults.
"Therein lies the synergy, both sectors supplementing and complementing each other in providing services to the population at large. But the coverage and accessibility of dental services in this country is still far from satisfactory," he said.
Dr Ismail said Malaysia also needed to increase the number of dental specialists whose ratio now was 1 orthodontist to about 320,000 people.
He said the ministry was working very hard to encourage and motivate dental officers to pursue postgraduate specialty training by providing more postgraduate scholarships for dentistry.
"From less than 20 in year 2000, we have doubled the number to more than 40 for 2006," he said.
He also said that the ministry was serious in its efforts to promote continuing professional development (CPD) and was in the process of institutionalising CPD and making it part of the assessment of its officers at all levels.
"We propose to start with medical and dental officers and pharmacists this year," he said.

Five More Admitted To HKL For H5N1 Tests

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 25 (Bernama) -- Another five people, including three girls, living around the bird flu-infected area of Jalan Genting Klang were admitted to the Kuala Lumpur Hospital Friday night for examination.
The girls, aged 4, 13 and 14, and two adults, a 44-year-old man, and a 40-year-old woman, were admitted after they spotted symptoms of the deadly H5N1 virus infection -- fever, cough and flu.
Health Services Director-General Datuk Dr Ismail Merican said they were warded in stages from 9pm last night for further examination.
He said they were now awaiting test results from the Institute for Medical Research (IMR).
"So far this morning, five cases are still in the ward. All of them are stable, only they're awaiting test results from the IMR," he told a press conference after opening the FDI-MDA scientific exhibition here Saturday.
Dr Ismail said the results would be known today.
"Most probably all of them will be discharged if the results showed negative," he said.
He said all test results of suspected cases admitted to HKL so far were negative -- they are not infected by the H5N1 avian influenza virus and were allowed to return home.
"Actually, yesterday, before 6pm, I was told there are no cases in HKL, only at 9pm, there were two cases at first and later three came in," he said.
Dr Ismail said the health authorities were carrying out house-to-house screening at Genting Klang area and anyone found to have H5N1 symptoms -- fever, cough and flu -- would be admitted to hospital for further examination.
Till today, the bird flu is only detected in poultry, he added.

Compensation for surrendering chicken

NST: RM9.50 for a kampung chicken, RM6 for a duck, RM10 for a goose, RM5 for a bird and 20 sen for an egg.
This is how much residents in villages here hit by bird flu would be paid for surrendering the birds to the Veterinary Services Department.
The villages, located in a 1km radius of Kampung Pasir Wardieburn, include Taman Danau Kota, Pekan Danau Kota and Kampung Belakang JPJ.
Leaflets informing villagers of the compensation were distributed in Kampung Pasir Wardieburn today. Two collection centres have been set up and will be operational tomorrow.
Residents were also advised to report chickens that were sick or dead, and also those brought in or out of the area.
VSD deputy director-general Dr Abdul Aziz Jamaluddin said today’s focus was a house-to-house search, an exercise assisted by the Village Development and Security Committee.
"This morning alone, 92 chickens have been culled. The committee’s help is crucial in helping us to locate the birds.
"We will continue to work to ensure by the end of tomorrow, the 1km zone is free of chickens," he said.
Dr Aziz said the few chickens that have died in the last few days could have died of natural causes.
"If it’s the virus, you will have many chickens dying at once. But most of the chickens here are not infected," he said. However, as a precautionary measure, culling was still carried out.
Dr Aziz said swab tests were also conducted outside the 1km radius area, carried out by 30 teams of five members each.
The teams comprised personnel from the department, City Hall, police, staff and students of the Veterinary Medical Faculty and 100 students from Universiti Putra Malaysia.
They conducted checks at different zones, focusing on wet markets, pet shops and on those keeping birds as pets.
So far, the results of all tests had returned negative.

Hostel facility for visitors of Penang Hospital

Star: PENANG: The pathetic sight of visitors sleeping along corridors, under the stairwell and in the surau at the Penang Hospital is now a thing of the past.
Outstation folks visiting sick relatives can now stay at the hospital’s former dental hostel, which has been converted into sleeping quarters for visitors.
After hitting a snag for two years due to bureaucracy and red tape, the free hostel Balai Pelawat Sri Tanjung is finally operational.
The 44-bed hostel, which is located within the hospital compound, is believed to be the first of its kind provided by a public hospital in the country.
Hospital director Dr Zaininah Mohd Zain said about 550 people, mostly from outstation, had stayed at the double-storey hostel since it opened its doors on Oct 11 last year.
“Visitors are allowed to sleep at the hostel as long as they have a relative warded at the hospital,” she said yesterday.
Dr Zaininah said the hostel service had helped ease the financial burden of lower-income families as they did not have to stay at hotels, which were also far away from the hospital.
“Apart from visitors, our outstation cancer patients and their families can also stay at the hostel when they undergo radiotherapy treatment.
“Previously, these patients had to bunk with or stay at hotels,” she added.
Cleaner Che Gayah Basah, 55, from Parit Buntar, had been staying at the hostel for more than one week to care for her son, who had slipped into a coma after a road accident.
“When I was at the hospital to take care of my daughter last July, I had to rest on the floor at the surau.
“But now, it is safer and more comfortable staying at the hostel as there is a 24-hour security service,” she said.
Civil servant Shaari Abd Rashid, 51, from Kuala Lumpur, who was visiting his mother in the Intensive Care Unit, hoped other public hospitals would also provide such a facility.
“I think many people do not mind paying a small amount of money for the lodging, as long as they can be near their loved ones,” he added.
The Penang Council of Datuks had, on the initiative of its president Datuk Nazir Ariff, collected RM150,000 to renovate the derelict dental hostel.
In August last year, The Star highlighted Nazir’s frustration over the red tape that had hindered his efforts to get the project off the ground.
After failing to acquire land for the project, he convinced the authorities to allow him to renovate the former dental hostel.
But he was later informed that the building could only be used when its status had been converted from a dental hostel to a visitors’ hall.

Sarawak remains calm over HFM disease

Star: KUCHING: Reported cases of hand, foot and mouth disease in Sarawak have increased sharply this year but there is no cause for panic as the health authorities have the situation under control, said Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan.
Some 850 cases have already been reported as of Feb 23 this year, compared with only 73 over the corresponding period last year. There were also three deaths associated with the disease since December 2005.
However, Dr Chan said the increase was expected as the state Health Department’s surveillance of the disease since an outbreak in 1997 showed that it peaked every three years.
“From our records, there was a big outbreak in 1997, during which 31 children died. In 2000 and 2003, there was a peak of the virus again, with three deaths in Sibu Hospital three years ago,” he told a press conference.
He added that based on the current surveillance data, the disease in the state this year was due to the enterovirus 71, which is potentially more severe than other enteroviruses.
As such, he said, the authorities were taking drastic measures to reduce the spread and severity of the disease, including closing kindergartens and childcare centres when necessary.
He confirmed that a kindergarten here was closed by the Health Department on Feb 22.

Isolating chickens from birds

Star: PETALING JAYA: Poultry farmers are netting their farms to prevent the domestic fowls from coming into contact with wild birds which could spread the avian flu virus.
Selangor and Federal Territory Poultry Traders Association adviser Datuk Dr Lee Chong Meng said the measure was to prevent wild birds from entering their farms.
“Minimising contact between chickens and wild birds can prevent the animals from being infected.”
He said farmers had also been told to take extra efforts to ensure hygiene at their farms to prevent any outbreak.
Lee also suggested a temporary ban on open slaughtering of chickens at all Kuala Lumpur wet markets “as a measure to prevent the possibility of the virus spreading to humans.”
He said chickens slaughtered and processed at slaughtering houses under a controlled environment was one way of preventing the virus from spreading.

Two Discharged As First Checks On Bird Flu-Hit Area Completed

PUTRAJAYA, Feb 24 (Bernama) -- Two children, aged 18 months and six years, respectively, have been discharged from hospital after results of bird flu tests conducted on them came back negative.
Health authorities on Thursday completed the first round of checks on 505 houses and 2,065 residents within the 300m radius of the bird flu-hit area in Jalan Genting Klang, Kuala Lumpur.
Disclosing these developments Friday, Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said only two residents admitted yesterday -- a 42-year-old man and a 10-year-old girl -- remained in hospital and were awaiting test results.
There had been some confusion in earlier reports pertaining to the gender and age of the two residents involved.
Speaking to reporters at his office here, he said the second phase of checks began Friday and this would not involve house-to-house screening.
"Health personnel involved in the operation too are being monitored, and so far they are clear of the deadly bird flu H5N1 virus," he said.
Several settlements along Jalan Genting Klang, including Kampung Pasir Wardieburn and Kampung Belakang JPJ, have been hit by the virus which killed chickens there, prompting health authorities to move swiftly to contain the outbreak.
Elaborating on the second phase of inspections, Disease Control Division director Dr Ramlee Rahmat said health officers would still be in active detection mode within the 300m radius.
"But the modality may not really be house-to-house checks. They are going back there to look for houses and residents that they may have missed in the first round," he said.
In addition, he said, what was termed as "table top" exercise would be conducted by the ministry to see whether the response to the bird flu situation was executed according to plan so that improvements could be made.

2,000 Chickens Destroyed In Culling Exercise

PUTRAJAYA, Feb 24 (Bernama) -- The culling of fowls over a radius of one kilometre from where the Avian Influenza H5N1 virus was detected in Jalan Genting Klang, Kuala Lumpur, is expected to be completed on Sunday.
Veterinary Services Acting Director-General Datuk Dr Mustapa Abdul Jalil said 2,227 chickens, 122 ducks, 102 fowls and 516 eggs had been destroyed in the exercise involving the department, Kuala Lumpur City Hall and the police.
Today's exercise involved 40 teams, and included 62 students from Universiti Putra Malaysia's Medical Faculty.
Dr Mustapa said areas within two to 10 kilometres from where the problem surfaced were also being monitored, involving 122 chicken or fowl owners, 1,820 fowls, three pet shops and 331 other premises.
"So far, 447 samples had been taken and tested and all were found to be without the virus," he told a press conference here.
He said checks and monitoring of the situation were also conducted in other states, adding that so far there were no indications of the virus having spread there.
Dr Mustapa said the public should not worry because chickens, ducks and eggs in areas unaffected by the H5N1 were safe for consumption.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Killer EV71 Virus Re-Emerges In Sarawak

KUCHING, Feb 24 (Bernama) -- The deadly Enterovirus71 (EV71) that has gripped the nation in 1997 has emerged again in Sarawak this year claiming one life so far and forcing one kindergarten here to be closed for two weeks since Wednesday.
Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan said as of now there were three-deaths associated with the Hand, Foot and Mouth (HFM) disease and samples had been collected for laboratory testing at the Institute of Health and Community Medicine (IHCM) Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) to find the exact cause of the death.
"One was positive EV71 while samples from the other two children were negative for EV71," he told a news conference here Friday.
As a necessary precaution, Dr Chan said one kindergarten was asked to close by the Sarawak Health Department to avoid a possible outbreak.
"We want to break the cycle, if one child has HFM symptom and then one week later, either one or two children are infected with the same symptom, we will close the kindergarten temporarily," he said.
Dr Chan said the Health Department would monitor the situation very closely but advised the parents not to panic and that they should practice high standard of hygiene.
Dr Chan said three major towns in Sarawak registered a sharp increase of HFM's reported case since Jan 1 to Feb 23 this year, with the highest reported cases in Sibu.
"The number of cases from Sibu reported are 436 this year compared to 80 cases in the same period last year," he said adding that for Kuching there were 118 cases this year compared to 41 last year while in Bintulu, there were 211 cases this year from 13 last year.
For other towns in Sarawak, Dr Chan said there was no sharp increase in cases recorded so far.
In 1997, a total of 31 children below five-years old were killed in a span of more than one month and clinical tests had confirmed that the death of 29 children were due to EV71 while the rest HFM-related disease.

World's First Cervical Cancer Computerised Diagnosis System By USM

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 24 (Bernama) -- A team of Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) researchers has invented the world's first computerised cervical cancer diagnosis system (CCAID) that is capable of detecting the disease quickly and effectively.
Chief researcher Dr Nor Ashidi Mat Isa said that unlike the old system which required several pathologists and a long time to analyse the cancerous cells, the CCAID only required one pathologist.
"With the CCAID, only one pathologist is enough to detect the cancer within a short period even thought there are lots of cases reported," he said at the Malaysian Technology Expo here last night.
The system was jointly developed by five researchers -- Assoc Prof Dr Mohamed Yusoff Mashor, Prof Dr Nor Hayati Othman, Nor Rizuan Mat Noor, Sariah Rajuli and Nazahah Mustafa.
Dr Nor Ashidi said the computer's smart system was divided into two main components, the light microscope and diagnosis software and a monitor.
"The computerised light microscope can magnify the enlarge cell image by up to 400 times and the image can be recorded and processed via the diagnosis software before being displayed on the monitor screen," he said.
Dr Nor Ashidi added that pathologists would only focus their tests on the affected cells, which would save time.
He explained that vital information like the stage of the cancer, either normal, dangerous or critical, and the accuracy of the test would be displayed.
However, he said, the CCAID was still at laboratory stage where more tests and further research must be performed before it could be commercialised as a mass-screening tool.

No removal of lens cleaner here

NST: Eye-care giant Bausch & Lomb has no plans to take its ReNu contact lens solution off the shelves in Malaysia, after the product was linked to a spate of eye infections in Hong Kong and Singapore.
The company yesterday suspended sales of the multi-purpose contact lens solution in Hong Kong, after the health authority began looking into a recent spike in the number of eye infections in Singapore.
Reuters news agency today reported the company would not suspend sales in other markets where there have been no cases of fungal keratitis.
On Tuesday, Singapore’s Health Ministry "strongly advised" contact lens wearers to stop using the Bausch & Lomb product as a precaution until it completed investigations.
The island has seen 39 cases since 2005 with an unusual number last month. Thirty-four of these 39 cases said that they had used a ReNu multipurpose solution by B&L, it said. Three of them had to undergo urgent cornea transplants, Reuters said.
The health authority also said it is working with the company to discover the cause of the infections.
Bausch & Lomb stood by its product, saying it was confident a thorough investigation will show that ReNu is not to blame.
There are no known cases of the eye infection in Malaysia, said Bausch & Lomb South East Asia.

Second phase of ops starts today

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The second phase of the operation to trace chickens, ducks and other birds within the 10km radius of the bird-flu hit area here will start today.
Acting Veterinary Department director-general Datuk Dr Mustapa Jalil said officers from his department, the Health Ministry, police, City Hall and final-year veterinary students from Universiti Putra Malaysia would carry out medical tests on birds found in the area.
The areas include Setapak, Pudu, Hulu Klang and Kepong.
“The culling operation of chickens, ducks and birds within a 1km radius is still going on,” he told reporters at the department headquarters last night.
“This will be followed by surveillance within the 10km radius, which will start tomorrow (today) and go on until Sunday.
“The operation will involve conducting close observation of birds in the area, doing clinical tests and taking swap samples of the birds.”

Health workers to get Tamiflu

Star: KUCHING: Sarawak is spending RM200,000 to buy Tamiflu for its health workers and to prepare for any outbreak, said Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan Hong Nam.
The stock would only be enough for 500 workers, he said, adding that the medicine was not easily available.
Dr Chan, also state Minister for Agriculture Modernisation, said police and army personnel were educating villagers living along the Sarawak-Kalimantan border on the risks of smuggling in fighting cocks and poultry.
As fighting cocks are prized birds, there are people who would use all means to smuggle them in from Indonesia, he told reporters after attending the state Cabinet meeting here yesterday.
Dr Chan said the state had imposed a total ban on the import of poultry from the peninsula.

Residents voluntarily surrender chickens

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysians feel better being safe than sorry.
This was evident at the bird flu affected areas in Setapak where residents voluntarily “surrendered” their chickens for culling.
When a team from the Veterinary Services Department and the Kuala Lumpur City Hall arrived at Taman Ibu Kota, residents were seen approaching the officers to tell them that they kept chickens.
Kamaruddin Mohd Yunus said he had to part with his 11 chickens.
“My two daughters cried last night when I told them I had to give up the birds to protect the family from bird flu,” said the 49-year-old contractor, who kept his chickens in his backyard.
“My daughters, aged 11 and 14, treat the chickens as pets,” he said.
The family watched as the team went into the house compound to catch the chickens.
A rooster, however, escaped.
Kamaruddin promised to call the department when the rooster returned.
His neighbour, known only as Wan Aminnunddi, asked the team to catch a hen that called at his house.
“It often rests and lays eggs in my house compound,” said the 45-year-old businessman.
“I was very worried when I heard about the avian flu. I do not want to risk my life by allowing the hen to stay,” he said.
The hen was “not in” when the team went to his house but the eggs were taken away.
The team also received a complaint from a resident at Taman Danau Kota about Indonesians keeping chickens at a construction site there.
However, the team found out that the Indonesians had already destroyed the chickens.
At Wardieburn Camp, the team found a bird park with four peacocks, each worth RM30,000, four chickens and three pigeons.
However, the team could not take action because the owner of the park was not at home.

PM: We can fight bird flu

Star: SEREMBAN: Malaysia is ready with the necessary mechanisms to fight bird flu, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
“The Health Ministry and relevant departments are monitoring the situation carefully and we have the necessary mechanisms to put into action if there are any problems,” he told reporters after presenting cheques to Felda Sendayan settlers here.
“It involves a few ministries and we will take whatever necessary action as needed.
“This includes getting information from our neighbouring countries on what can be implemented to solve the problem. There needs to be information.”

In KUALA LUMPUR, only four people, including two latest cases, remained under observation at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital, said Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek.
He said one of them showed no signs of having contracted the flu while a two-year-old child was placed in the isolation ward.
He said the two latest cases were taken to the hospital to undergo tests.
“They will be discharged tomorrow (Friday) if they test negative for the avian flu,” he told reporters after opening the healthcare conference on diabetes management.
“There is no case of the avian flu affecting people in Malaysia. We only have confirmed avian flu cases among chickens.”
Veterinary Services Department acting director-general Datuk Dr Mustapa Jalil said strict surveillance, checking of premises and the culling exercise were continuing.
“As of today (yesterday), 1,970 chickens, 62 ducks, 72 birds and 505 eggs have been destroyed,” he said in a statement.
Dr Mustapa said surveillance of an area between a 2km and 10km radius of the affected area, which started yesterday, was to ensure that Kuala Lumpur, Ulu Klang, Gombak and its surrounding neighbourhoods were free from avian flu.
“The surveillance is carried out by teams from the department in Selangor,” he said.
“So far, our teams have taken 114 swab samples from 237 birds belonging to 24 residents and three pet shops located in Selayang and Hulu Klang.
“All have tested negative.”

Tapah R&R Wins Toilet Competition

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 23 (Bernama) -- The toilets at the south-bound Tapah Rest and Service Area (R&R), with its open concept and modern design and surrounded by tropical landscape, was chosen the winner in a toilet design competition.
Its management, PLUS Expressway Berhad (PLUS) will receive a RM5,000 prize from Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak at a function to be held here tomorrow.
The competition, held between Oct 31 and Dec 16 last year, was organised by the Housing and Local Government Ministry with the collaboration of the Works Ministry, the Education Ministry and the Malaysian Architect Association.
A statement issued by PLUS Thursday said more than 11,000 people stopped at the R&R every day.
The rest area has toilet facilities comprising 36 cubicles for women and 32 cubicles for men as well as bathrooms and toilets for the handicapped.
The design of the toilets had brought foreign VIPs, including from India and Bosnia Herzegovina, to the R&R which is at KM331.5.

Large-Scale Operation To Monitor Bird Flu In KL

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 23 (Bernama) -- The Veterinary Services Department (JPH), along with the Veterinary Faculty of Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) and various government agencies, will launch a large-scale operation on Friday to detect any sign of Avian Influenza over an area of 10-km radius spreading out from Jalan Genting-Kelang.
JPH acting Director-General Datuk Dr Mustapa Abd Jalil said the operation was to contain the Avian Influenza H5N1 virus that had killed 40 fowls in the Jalan Genting-Kelang area last Sunday.
Inspections and monitoring for signs of the disease, which can also be fatal for humans, were continuing in areas regarded to be at risk, he said in a statement released here Thursday.
"No signs of the virus spreading have been detected so far. All poultry meat and eggs in the market are safe for consumption. Just follow the recommendation of the World Health Organisation (WHO) to cook poultry products up to at least 70 degrees Celsius for a minimum of 30 minutes," he said.
He said that so far 1,970 chickens, 62 ducks, 72 fowls and 505 eggs had been destroyed in a culling exercise over a radius of one kilometre from where the problem surfaced.
He also said that checks conducted on owners of chicken or fowls and pet shops over a radius of three kilometres from Jalan Genting-Kelang, which included Selayang, Batu and Hulu Kelang, had been negative.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek had on Wednesday night said that tests conducted on five of seven people admitted to the Kuala Lumpur Hospital to ascertain if they have been infected by the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus proved negative.
A two-year-old boy, reported to be in good health, was still in the hospital while awaiting the test result and another suspected case, a 17-month-old child, had been admitted to the Kuala Lumpur Hospital for observation, he had said.

In PENANG, residents were advised to contact the state JPH if they came across unusual deaths among chickens or birds.
Penang JPH Director Dr Mohd Zairi Serlan said they could contact its branches throughout the state or its operations room at 04-508 4363 or 04-508 4369 during office hours.
"Do not act on your own if chickens or fowls suddenly die. Let us handle it," he said when contacted here today.
Mohd Zairi added that all entry points and tourists and foreigners coming into the state were being closely monitored for signs of bird flu and also to prevent attempts to smuggle in birds or fowls.
Meanwhile, state Health, Welfare and Caring Society Committee Chairman P. Subbaiyah said that so far no reports of infection by the virus had been received in Penang and that all hospitals there had been placed on full alert.

In KUALA TERENGGANU, the JPH there is studying whether to ban the entry of chicken from Selangor.
Terengganu JPH Director Dr Azizol Mohd Sharom said the department had collected 80 blood samples from chickens and birds over two days from Feb 6 and were waiting for the results form the Veterinary Research Institute in Ipoh. He said operations were in full swing to prevent a possible outbreak in the state.

In KUCHING, Sarawak has imposed a total ban on imports of bird products, including chicken, from Peninsular Malaysia from last Tuesday as part of its preventive measures to avert the spread of the H5N1 avian influenza virus to the state.
Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan said the state goverment would review the decision based on the latest developments on the spread of the virus in the peninsula, and may restrict the import of bird products to those coming from areas there were unaffected by the killer disease.
"We are taking extreme caution and watching developments there," he told a news conference Thursday.
Dr Chan, who is also Agriculture Modernisation Minister, said that at the same time the police and army would also strictly monitor movements along the Sarawak-Kalimantan border to prevent the smuggling of birds into the state.

In KANGAR, Perlis residents were asked not to shoot migratory birds for food to avert risk of infection.
State Agriculture and Rural Development Committee Chairman Khairi Hassan said Perlis viewed the developments seriously and was taking all necessary precautionary measures to avert an outbreak in the state.
Speaking to reporters after the presentation of aid by Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim to 3,000 padi farmers who were affected by the recent floods in Perlis at the Dewan 2020 here today, he said the ban on poultry imports from Thailand imposed three years ago was still in force.
He added that 10 chicken farms in the state operated by individuals and government agencies involving 15,000 birds had been checked so far but no signs of bird flu had been found.

Two More Admitted To HKL For Avian Influenza Tests, Says Chua

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 23 (Bernama) -- Two more people from Jalan Genting Klang in Gombak where the bird flu has surfaced were admitted to the Kuala Lumpur Hospital (HKL) Thursday to undergo tests to determine if they had been infected by the deadly H5N1 virus.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek, in announcing this latest development, said the two were a 49-year-old woman and a 10-year-old boy.
"They have been placed in the isolation ward for observation," he told reporters after launching Nestle's latest health product, Nutren Balance Bar, here.
Dr Chua said that of the seven cases referred to HKL earlier, one had been allowed to return home Wednesday, four were discharged Thursday while one other person had been transferred to the normal ward after tests found he did not display any H5N1 symptoms.
"Overall, only four people remain at the isolation ward in HKL, the two who were admitted Thursday, a two year-old boy (admitted on Tuesday) and a 17-month-old toddler admitted Wednesday," said Dr Chua.
He said bird flu screening continued to be carried out by the Federal Territory and City Hall health departments.
So far 226 households involving 1,149 people at the JPJ and Danau Kota longhousing complexes had been screened, he said.
"Screening activities will continue for at least another week to ensure that these places are completely safe from the H5N1 virus," he said.
Dr Chua also stressed that there had been no human cases so far and that only fowls had been involved.
Meanwhile, Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Deputy Minister Datuk Mah Siew Keong said that a total of 2,227 chickens, 122 ducks, 102 birds and 516 eggs had been destroyed since Sunday night following the outbreak.
He said that all fowls within a one kilometre radius of the affected area in Jalan Genting-Klang would be culled by Sunday.
"I call on the villagers to help us reach our target by Sunday," he told reporters during his visit to Kampung Pasir Wardieburn, one of the four areas along Jalan Genting-Klang being monitored by the ministry for birds and fowls infected by the Avian Influenza virus.
He warned that the ministry would take action against anyone who smuggled out fowls or other birds from the affected areas.
Mah was earlier briefed on the monitoring and culling of fowls in the area by officers from City Hall's Health Department and the Veterinary Services Department (JPH).
A check by Bernama in Kampung Pasir Wardieburn found yet-to-be-caught chickens and even fighting cockerels roaming about.
City Hall's Health Department and JPH personnel also carried out inspections at Kampung Sri Kelantan and the Wardieburn Army Camp here.
A visit to the army camp found that it was home to three peacocks and four "serama" chickens, all kept in a large cage.
The camp's spokesman confirmed that City Hall and JPH had inspected the area earlier Thursday but said that since the birds were always confined in the cage they were not at risk.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Tests On Five People For Bird Flu Virus Prove Negative, Says Dr Chua

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 22 (Bernama) -- Tests conducted on five of the seven people admitted to the Kuala Lumpur Hospital to ascertain if they have been infected by the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus proved negative, Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said Wednesday night.
He said the test results made available tonight showed the five people did not have any symptoms of being infected with the killer disease.
"All of them did not have fever. They may be discharged tomorrow," he said when speaking at his ministry's media award night.
However, the test results on two others, a two-year-old child and a seven-month-old baby, are not known. Nevertheless, they are reported to be in good health.
Dr Chua also said another suspected case, an 18-month-old child, has been admitted to the Kuala Lumpur Hospital for observation.

836 Chickens, Ducks, Birds Culled In Bird Flu-Hit Areas

PUTRAJAYA, Feb 22 (Bernama) -- A total of 724 chickens, 58 ducks, 54 birds and 455 eggs have been destroyed since Sunday night after 40 chickens around Jalan Genting Klang in Setapak died of the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus.
Veterinary Services Department Acting Director-General Datuk Dr Mustapa Abdul Jalil said the culling operation was carried out within a 1km radius of Kampung Pasir Wardieburn.
It covered Taman Danau Kota, Pekan Danau Kota and the longhouses behind the Road Transport Department complex, he said.
Personnel from his department, Kuala Lumpur City Hall and the police were involved in the operation, he told reporters Wednesday.
Dr Mustapa said seven teams from the Selangor Veterinary Services Department were deployed Tuesday for surveillance and inspections in Gombak.
Besides visiting 38 premises rearing chickens and examining 824 fowls, 139 swab samples were also taken, he said.
He said the operation would be expanded in stages tomorrow to cover a 10km radius from Kampung Pasir Wardieburn up to Setapak in the north, Pudu in the south, Hulu Kelang in the east and Kepong in the west, he said.
The one-week large-scale surveillance would involve Veterinary Services Department staff nationwide, Universiti Putra Malaysia veterinary students and employees of various government agencies, he said.
All poultry farms in the country would be monitored closely though no bird flu virus had been detected there, he added.
The public can obtain information on bird flu by contacting 03-88702041 or 03-88702042 from 8am to 9pm daily.


NST: Negotiations over cost are delaying the Road Transport Department’s plans to use a single company’s online system to handle medical reports for commercial drivers.
The system, developed by the company Pantai Supreme Systems, was to have been launched in September, but its proposed charges have met with objections from doctors and members of the transport industry.
The proposed fee could be as much as double what most doctors charge now for a medical examination of a commercial driver, they said.
Commercial drivers are required to pass medical examinations every year for their driving licences to be renewed. Those who are unfit or who do not want to be examined may submit medical reports whose authenticity are difficult to check.
The online system will allow clinics around the country to forward medical reports directly to the RTD. The concession for implementation of the system was awarded to Pantai Supreme last year.
"We are still in the final stages of discussion with RTD and the Malaysian Medical Association on the costing and the date to implement the system," said Pantai Supreme director Datuk Nordin Yahya.
Nordin declined to say how much the company would charge, saying he would leave the decision to the Malaysian Medical Association.
Pantai Supreme is owned by private healthcare group Pantai Holdings Bhd, which bought a 51 per cent stake in the company last year.
The MMA today said Pantai Supreme was planning to charge RM85 for the use of its online system to submit a medical report to the RTD. The cost includes a fixed RM35 fee for an examination by doctors on its panel, said MMA president Datuk Dr Teoh Siang Chin.
He said the plan would mean "higher costs for clients and the community". "We appeal to the minister to urgently review the terms of the award" to the concessionaire, he said in a statement today.
He also said the association opposed the fixed RM35 fee the company would pay doctors for medical examinations.
Pantai Supreme had advertised for doctors to join its panel last year.
Teoh also said the MMA was looking into other matters, such as screening methods and the reporting structure of the on-line system.
The MMA will sign a Memorandum of Understanding with Pantai Supreme Systems once all the issues had been ironed out, he said.
Checking the authenticity of medical reports was a problem for the RTD, said Dr J.S. Deo, chairman of the Malaysian Doctors’ Co-operative Society Ltd. "In many cases, forging a medical report is as easy as replicating a rubber stamp," he explained.
Still, he criticised the award of the concession to one company. "It will have a virtual monopoly in the country."
He estimated that most clinics charged an average of RM30 for a check-up.
He stressed that Pantai Supreme could net more than RM30 million in profit from fees it would receive from Malaysia’s 900,000 commercial drivers who must renew their licences every year.
Another medical association, Primary Care Doctors Organisation Malaysia, also criticised the award, saying that it had developed a cheaper alternative with money from a government grant.
Produced on a RM1 million grant from the Science and Technology Ministry, its Primary Care system would cost much less to use.
"It could cost as little as RM1 to relay medical report from a clinic to the RTD," said the organisation president Dr Molly Cheah who was part of a team of 50 doctors who helped develop the system.
Pan Malaysia Lorry Operators Association president Er Sui See said medical exams conducted by companies’ own panel doctors can cost as little as RM5 to RM10.
"Once this system is introduced, doctors will have to be on (Pantai Supreme’s) panel. A standard fee will be charged and it is unlikely that it will be cheap," he said.
Er said RTD needed to audit the renewal process and make random checks. "RTD could always ask the doctor to fax a copy to them to verify."
Pan Malaysian Bus Operators’ Association president Datuk Mohd Ashfar Ali said it would oppose any move that would cause costs to exceed RM30. "We support the effort to make medical check-ups for drivers rigorous and tamper-proof. But charging an exorbitant price like RM85 would be simply ridiculous."
RTD director-general Datuk Emran Kadir declined to comment on Pantai Supreme’s fees.

AIDS awareness crucial

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Although social discrimination against AIDS is difficult to change, efforts by large organisations can help eliminate stigmatisation facing the HIV-positive, said Malaysian AIDS Foundation (MAF) chairman Prof Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman.
“After 20 years of this AIDS epidemic most people are still ignorant, and you'd be surprised how little they know,” she said at a cheque-giving ceremony at the Renaissance Hotel here yesterday.
Dr Adeeba received a RM42,656 donation from the Hope Campaign launched in four Renaissance hotels last October.
The funds were raised through sales of MAF merchandise and collections in donation boxes.
The funds will be channelled to the Circle of Hope Funds that finances the Paediatric AIDS Scheme, the People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) Drug Assistance Scheme and PLWHA Business Assistance Scheme.
Under the PLWHA Business Assistance Scheme, people living with AIDS will be given RM1,000 to start a small business as a way to support themselves.
“We have the financial support for our programme, however what is also important is the awareness that is generated through this fund-raising programme organised by Renaissance Hotels and Resorts in Malaysia,” she stressed.
To generate a keener awareness in society of the AIDS epidemic, Dr Adeeba said two things had to be addressed to ensure success.
“The first is to generate general awareness via the print media and TV.
“The second is to identify high-risk groups like those in the sex industry. We have to identify the groups to use different messages to communicate effectively with them,” she said
Also present at the ceremony were general managers Robert Frager of Renaissance Kuala Lumpur, Phillip Chee of Renaissance Kota Baru, George Varughese of Renaissance Malacca, Boyd Barker of Miri Marriott & Spa and Rajkumar Balamanickam of MAF.

Eight warded as precaution

Star: PUTRAJAYA: Eight people, including six children, have been warded at Kuala Lumpur Hospital since Tuesday for symptoms of upper respiratory tract infection following the outbreak of the H5N1 strain of avian flu in Jalan Genting Klang.
All were from different households within the area where the outbreak occurred and all had been exposed to sick chickens. They are aged from two months to 57 years.
Three other people earlier warded for observation have been discharged.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said among those warded was a seven-month baby who showed no signs of having contracted the flu and was allowed to return home yesterday.
He said five others, who tested negative of the H5N1 virus, would be discharged today while results of the seventh patient was pending.
He also said a 17-month-old toddler was placed under observation yesterday and the results of the test would be known today.
“I want to stress that these patients are not yet confirmed cases and are warded as a precautionary measure,” he told reporters here yesterday.
“We have already sent samples to the Institute for Medical Research for tests and the results will be known tomorrow (today).
“They have been put in separate wards specially for bird flu patients. So far, our 11 teams of ministry staff have conducted door-to-door searches of 161 houses comprising 916 residents within the affected area.
“The door-to-door search for those with flu symptoms will continue for seven days.”
Dr Chua said the ministry had also decided to extend its surveillance to residents living outside the immediate 300m radius.
“We will have a 14-day public campaign to encourage those who feel sick or feverish to go for further check-ups at Kuala Lumpur Hospital or other designated hospitals,” he said, adding that so far there was still no need to quarantine residents in the affected area.
The National Operations Room for avian flu had also been activated and those feeling sick or needing more information could call the hotline at 03-8888 6212, he said.
However, he reminded the public that the country was still at “level one” alert as there had been no confirmed cases of avian flu among humans.
“We have not sought any advice from the World Health Organisation as we feel that it’s an isolated incident and we are capable of handling it,” he said.
The ministry had decided that only Dr Chua, health director-general Datuk Dr Mohamad Ismail Merican and its disease control division director Dr Ramlee Rahmat would be allowed to give the media details of any avian flu cases.
Yesterday, the Health and Veterinary Services Departments continued to cull and carry out door-to-door checks on the four villages.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Seven People Warded At KL Hospital For Bird-flu Tests

PUTRAJAYA, Feb 22 (Bernama) -- Seven people showing signs of upper respiratory tract infections from the bird-flu hit area in Jalan Genting Klang, Kuala Lumpur, have been warded at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital and are undergoing tests to ascertain whether they have been infected by the deadly H5N1 virus.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said that the results of the tests conducted on the two adults and five children aged between two months to 12 years would be known by tomorrow morning at the latest.
"We have sent 11 teams to the area and so far they have checked 161 houses and interviewed or screened 916 residents there," he told a news conference here Wednesday.
The minister said initially 10 people complained of having a fever, sore throat or coughs but after being referred to the hospital, three of them were later found to be fine and sent home.
Forty free range chickens from villages in the area had died of the H5N1 virus and intensive house-to-house screenings have started within a 300m radius of the area. The villages are Kampung Wirajaya, Kampung Pasir Wardieburn, Kampung Danau Kota and Kampung Belakang JPJ.
The seven admitted to the KLH comprises three Malays and four Indians, he said, adding that the two adults were aged 52 and 57-years old.
"I want to stress that they are not confirmed avian influenza cases," he said in cautioning the media not to misreport on the situation or seek to take photographs or interview them at the hospital.
He said active surveillance within the 300m radius of the affected area would last for seven days while passive surveillance was being conducted in areas beyond that boundary and this would go on for two weeks.
The latter, he said, involved educating residents to go for health checks if they experienced fever, sore throat or coughing and surrender their chickens, ducks or other birds to the Veterinary Services Department.
To a question, Dr Chua said that no quarantine order had been issued so far.
The minister said he did not yet have information on the exact number of houses within the 300m radius.
"We will cover all of them but better still, if residents have flu-like symptoms, they should report it to the authorities," he said, adding that an operation room in the affected area had been jointly set up by the ministry and the Veterinary Services Department.
Saying that the seven residents had been put in a special ward, Dr Chua noted that the KLH was ready to handle bird-flu cases, if any.
In addition, he said, the Institute of Medical Research had been directed to be on the ready to receive clinical samples for tests.
To a question, he said that Malaysia was prepared to handle the bird flu disease and that it had not asked for outside help so far.
A national operation centre has been activated and it can be reached at 03-88886212/6213.

MAKNA Giving RM200,000 Grant To Study Cooking Methods

KUALA LUMPUR, 22 Feb (Bernama) -- The National Cancer Council (MAKNA) will provide a RM200,000 grant to Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM)'s food technology researchers to study cooking methods that can reduce the risk of cancer.
MAKNA president Datuk Mohamed Farid Ariffin said the study would begin this year and was expected to be completed in two years.
"In western countries, there are studies that show that open grilling can cause cancer but we don't know the Malaysian method.
"Maybe there are ways of cooking that will cause cancer. We don't know yet. So, a study will be carried out," he told reporters after the presentation of Makna Cancer Research Awards worth between RM30,000 and RM40,000 each to three local researchers at the Academy of Sciences Malaysia.
The recipients are Dr Yap Toke Yeow and Masriana Hassan from UPM and Dr Mohamed Zulkefeli Mat Jusoh from Universiti Teknologi Mara. They were selected from 27 applicants.
Deputy Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Kong Cho Ha gave out the awards.