Friday, March 31, 2006

Authorities blamed for lack of info on AIDS

NST: Felda Palong Timur Satu folk want the authorities to do more to keep them informed of the deadly HIV/AIDS disease.
HIV patient Norizan Ismail, 46, who allegedly contracted HIV through a blood transfusion at Segamat district hospital and died last Friday at Kuala Lumpur Hospital, was neither the first nor the only HIV case in the Felda settlement.
There were others, mainly hard-core drug addicts, who had been infected with HIV.
Sadly, unlike dengue campaigns, the kampung folk were not given adequate exposure with regard to information on AIDS and HIV.
Housewife Siti Murni Mustaji, 44, Norizan’s neighbour, said the authorities had never held any AIDS campaign or briefing to inform them of the deadly virus.
"What little we knew on AIDS was gathered from television and radio campaigns. The authorities should come down here to inform us what the disease is all about," she said.
Siti Murni said Norizan had concealed her condition for about four years, and the neighbours only learned about it from the newspapers.
"It was heart-wrenching. Norizan stayed at her sister’s place when her plight was published in the newspapers. She stayed away because she feared she would be an outcast here," she said.
"Most of us knew that HIV cannot be spread by touch, so when she finally came home, we welcomed and hugged her."
Siti Murni said the authorities should organise talks to educate them on the dangers of the disease.
"In general we were not squeamish about holding or being near her, but there were grey areas as how to handle the situation, to care for the patient and so on. If only we knew more, we could have offered Norizan more than just sympathy.
"If the Health Department or the local council could visit to inform us on dengue, why not AIDS? We need to know about it as well," she said.
Norizan had a transfusion of 11 pints of blood on July 17, 2001 after an emergency Caesarean section when she was seven months’ pregnant.
She was in a coma for a week and her baby only survived for 18 days.
A year later, two health officers went to her home and took samples of her blood as well as her husband’s. They confirmed that Norizan was HIV-positive and admitted that the last pint of blood was tainted with the virus.
None of her children, nor her husband, was infected.
Norizan’s husband, Ruslee Mansor, 49, said the residents were supportive in many ways and he was grateful to them, but not to the authorities when it came to educating the people about HIV and AIDS.
He said the advertisements on radio and television were too simplistic and vague.
"When one is facing the reality of the situation, information becomes crucial and the whole community needs to understand what can and should be done," he said.
Siti Marzerin, 23, daughter of the deceased, said the neighbours and the community had never looked down on her family or her late mother.
"They had been very helpful and sympathetic to our condition. When mother was ill, they helped look after my younger siblings and other household chores. They have been good and caring neighbours and my family truly appreciates it," she said.

Visit fails to dampen resolve

Star: KLANG: The doctors were too busy to eat.
Angry-looking patients crowded waiting areas, sick babies wailed after vomiting sour clumps of milk and the stench of a decomposed body filled the Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital mortuary.
This was the reality check for a group of bright students who had applied for government scholarships to do medicine overseas.
They were at the hospital for the compulsory Program Pendedahan Kerjaya Seorang Doktor (Doctor Occupation Exposure Programme) before being called for an interview by the Public Services Department.
Were they affected by the blood, gore and pain so routine to doctors and other medical staff?
Some would-be medical students looked bewildered and others tried hard not to let their surprise show too much. But few were dissuaded from becoming a doctor.
“Blood does not scare me. It is understandable that the patients are grouchy because they are in pain. Bodies are all right, I said a prayer for the departed souls before entering the mortuary,” said Lau Ron Hsien, 17, from Kota Kemuning in Shah Alam.
“I still want to be a doctor, I want to heal,” said Ron Hsien who scored 10 A1s and 1A2 in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examination.
Ron Hsien, who was a member of St John’s Ambulance in his school SMK USJ 13, has seen his fair share of blood and dislocated joints.
He wants to be a doctor and find a cure for cancer, a disease that killed his grandmother when he was eight years old.
Nadiah Mohd Sukree, 17, was also inspired to be a doctor after losing a loved one.
Her brother Ahmad Hakimi died of heart failure when he was only four months old.
“I want to be a cardiologist and am dedicating this medical journey to him,” said the SPM scorer from Kapar with 9A1s and 1B3 to her credit.
Yeoh Chen Lee, 18, from Klang, who scored 11A1s in the SPM, said not all bright students wanted to be doctors.
“Some of my clever friends want to be businessmen and earn lots of money. Others want to be accountants or engineers,” he said.
“I know it takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice to be a doctor but I really feel good about being able to heal.”

Malaysia May Be Declared Free Of Bird Flu In A Few Weeks

KUALA LUMPUR, March 30 (Bernama) -- Malaysia is expected to be declared free of bird flu in a few weeks as no fresh cases of the disease have been reported in recent days, Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said Thursday.
"We are conducting active surveillance in Perak and in Setapak and Gombak (in Selangor) and have been getting negative results while routine inspection is going on in all states," he told reporters after attending an international discourse series organised by the Nurul Yaqeen Foundation in Wangsa Maju near here.
He said he hoped that the sale of chicken would improve after demand dropped following the outbreak of the disease and despite calls by the government that cooked chicken was safe to eat.
Muhyiddin also said that Singapore was reconsidering importing chickens from Selangor after imposing a ban following the bird flu cases in Gombak and Setapak.
" ... but we will wait for a month before exporting to Singapore to ensure that there are no more outbreaks in the other states. Singapore does not prohibit import of chicken from Johor, Melaka and Negeri Sembilan," he said.
Muhyiddin said the ministry would adhere to the procedure of culling birds in the event of an outbreak of bird flu though it was seen as cruel because it was the best way to check the spread of the disease.
Scientists, industry experts and researchers were of the opinion that use of vaccine would not be able to check the spread of the disease, he said.
"The vaccine does not guarantee that the virus can be destroyed and it can remain in the meat and endanger humans," he said.
Muhyiddin also said that the Ninth Malaysia Plan (2006-2010) to be tabled in Parliament tomorrow would incorporate preventive measures against diseases as agriculture and plantations would develop into major industries.
For example, he said, RM500 million was being allocated to fight the foot-and-mouth disease that attacked cattle and it included getting expertise from Australia.

HFMD: Kindergartens In Sarawak Reopens Next Monday

KUCHING, March 30 (Bernama) -- All kindergartens, day-care centres and pre-schools in Sarawak will be re-opened starting Monday following indications of a decline in the hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) cases in Sarawak.
Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan said, however, they must improve the hygiene of their premises.
"It's a downward trend now. We are definitely getting over the worst of HFMD outbreak. Therefore we can let the kindergartens, day-care centres and pre-schools to be re-opened on Monday, April 3," he told reporters after giving the daily updates on the HFMD outbreak in Sarawak.
A total of 488 kindergartens and day-care centres and 534 pre-schools were ordered shut down early this month by the Health Ministry after children below the age of four found to have contracted the deadly Enterovirus 71 (EV71).
Eight deaths linked to HFMD were reported so far with three cases confirmed due to EV71 while the remaining ones are still under investigations.
He said, the operators are to be provided with a flow chart on how to detect HFMD cases at their premises and if any symptoms were found they must inform the parents to take their children to a doctor and notify the nearest health office.
Dr Chan said if two or more infections detected within seven days, the Health Department would serve a closure order for two weeks.
He said the classes may start by having hand washing demo and health messages.
The Health Department would keep a close watch especially on the 37 kindergartens that closed before the general order on the March 3.
Dr Chan, who is also the State Disaster and Relief Management Committee chairman said 163 new cases of suspected HFMD were detected over the last 24 hours, including 30 cases in Sarikei, Miri (25), Sibu (20), Mukah (19), Kapit (15), Kuching (14) and the rest are from other towns.
He said 28 or 17.2 percent of the new cases were detected through Active Cases Detection.
Up to now, 7,359 children had been infected, with 25 new admissions and 53 patients still warded and none in critical condition.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Foreigners Account For 30 Per Cent Of TB Cases

KUALA LUMPUR, March 30 (Bernama) -- Foreigners account for about 30 per cent of tuberculosis (TB) cases in the country which totalled 15,170 last year.
Dr Fuad Hashim, principal assistant director of the TB/Leprosy Control Unit in the Infectious Diseases Control Branch of the Health Ministry, said most of the infected foreigners came from Indonesia and the Philippines, which are classified as TB "high burden countries" by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
He said the government now required compulsory screening of foreign workers for TB before they were given work permits to check the spread of the disease in the country by foreigners.
Dr Fuad said people suffering from diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney problems risked being infected by TB.
Patients who took steroids for a long period and the elderly were also prone to the disease, he added.
Dr Fuad said the occurrence of TB also mirrored the trend in cases of HIV/AIDS which weakened the body resistance of patients.
In 2004, he said, 1,263 of the 15,429 TB patients were found to have HIV/AIDS.
According to him, since the screening of TB patients for HIV/AIDS began in 1990, the number of TB patients found also to have HIV/AIDS had been rising yearly.
Dr Fuad said Malaysia is classified by WHO as a TB "intermediate burden" country.
Besides Indonesia and the Philippines, the other Asean countries in the "high burden" category are Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar and Thailand.
In Malaysia, Sabah has the highest incidence of TB while the Federal Territory of Labuan has the lowest.
Malaysia will observe National TB Day early next month.

1,800 PSD applicants to get taste of life as a doc

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: More than 1,800 Public Services Department (PSD) medical scholarship applicants got a taste of life as a doctor in 46 hospitals nationwide.
During the three-day course starting yesterday, they would be shown the gory and less glamorous side of being a doctor.
In his welcome speech, KL Hospital director Dr Azmi Shafie told some 200 students that a doctor had to make a lot of sacrifices.
“A doctor’s day is filled with sweet, sour, good and bad experiences. It is not as glamorous as reflected in the movies. In real life, a doctor has to be tolerant, patient and responsible to his patients. He has to gain the trust of his patients, and his bedside manners can make a lot of difference in their recovery.”
All medical scholarship hopefuls will now undergo a mandatory three-day course at hospitals, including visits to the mortuary and operating theatre.
The course will enable the students to know at the outset what being a doctor is all about.
Lam Lyn Ley, 17, said the course was good exposure for those who wanted to be doctors. “It gives us an idea of the daily challenges facing doctors. Those who are not cut out for the profession may give up and not apply for the scholarship.”
Ahmad Hafizi Rozimi, 18, said such a course would give them an in-depth knowledge of the career of a doctor.
P. Vikneswary, 17, said that although she was aware that a doctor’s life was not a rosy one, “seeing is believing”.
“I hope to be motivated by this three-day course,” she added.
Most of the students said that although they were not guaranteed a scholarship, the stint would still be beneficial as most of them would be studying medicine.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

13 HFMD Cases Detected In N. Sembilan, Hospitals On Alert

SEREMBAN, March 29 (Bernama) -- Thirteen cases of the hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) were detected in Negeri Sembilan from January to last Monday, said State Health Director Datuk Dr Rosnah Ismail.
She said nine were detected in Seremban, three in Jempol and one in Tampin.
The situation was not alarming unlike in Sarawak but all hospitals, medical centres and government clinics statewide had been told to be on alert, she told Bernama, here Wednesday.
"So far, no child care centres and kindergartens have been ordered to close because the situation is under control," she said.
She advised all crèches to ensure cleanliness of their premises.
The disease is caused by virus that can be found in children's excrement and can be infectious, she said.
Dr Rosnah also advised the public to immediately send their children for treatment if they showed symptoms of HFMD like having fever and rashes.
As of last Sunday, Sarawak recorded 6,718 HFMD cases including eight deaths since it was detected in Sibu last month.

New Regulations On Clinical Waste Disposal

KUALA LUMPUR, March 29 (Bernama) -- The Health Ministry is planning to gazette the "Private Health Care and Facilities Regulations" soon to ensure clinical waste from private clinics and hospitals are disposed according to prescribed guidelines.
The Ministry's Parliamentary Secretary Datuk Lee Kah Choon said it would be gazetted within a month or two and meant to tighten control over clinical waste disposal by private clinics and hospitals.
Lee was replying to Razali Ibrahim (BN-Muar) at the Dewan Rakyat Wednesday.
To the original question from Dr James Dawos Mamit (BN-Mambong), Lee said waste processing facilities owned by concession holders outside the government hospital premises could be utilised by the private clinics and hospitals to dispose clinical waste.
He said up to now three concession holders -- Faber Mediserve Sdn. Bhd., Radicare (M) Sdn. Bhd. and Pantai Medivest Sdn. Bhd. -- had been appointed by the ministry to handle clinical waste.

DrM: Malaysia needs to train scientists for biotechnology

Sun2Surf:KUALA LUMPUR: To achieve its goal to develop a biotechnology industry, Malaysia would need to train the relevant scientists, knowledge workers and find its own niche, said former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Government support and the output of qualified scientists trained in molecular science are absolutely essential, he said in his speech read out by Tan Sri Law Hieng Ding, the organising committee chairman of The 2006 Biotechnology Symposium - Developing Medical Biotechnology in Malaysia at Istana Hotel here yesterday (March 28, 2006).
Mahathir said biotechnology is expected to be a new base for industry and trade with great potential for wealth creation.
"But it is not the source of raw material that will do this. It is knowledge regarding the character and the molecular structure, the reaction of the complex molecules involved that will determine the worth of the new industries biotechnology will generate," he said.
Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation Datuk Seri Dr Jamaludin Datuk Mohd Jarjis, who was also not present at the launch and whose speech was read out by his representative Datuk Suriah Abdul Rahman, said Malaysia has the opportunity to capture 0.4% of the worldÕs biotechnology market by 2010, based on the natural bioresources and strengths available in the country.
These include strong government support, excellent infrastructure for transport, communication and ICT, close government-industry collaboration and an established basic foundation in biotechnology, he said.

Sharp rise in HFM cases detected in Sarawak

The Star KUCHING: A three-fold increase in cases of hand, foot and mouth (HFM) disease was detected when primary schools re-opened on Monday.
The big jump in cases was attributed to the active detection exercise carried out by health teams at schools that were closed since the second-term holidays.
There were 235 cases yesterday, up from 75 on Monday.
Sarikei had 48 cases, followed by Miri (43), Samarahan (33), Kuching (26), Sibu and Limbang (21 each).
“Fifty-one of the 235 new cases were detected by the health teams,” said Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan Hong Nam.
He said there were 25 new admissions to hospitals yesterday and that 77 children were still warded across the state.
A school in Julal district was closed after seven pupils were found to have been infected.

Sarawak working on a blueprint to fight diseases

The Star: MIRI: What happens if there is another outbreak of a contagious disease? To the Sarawak government, the answer is a contingency plan.
Towards this end, the state and the health authorities are working on a blueprint that will, among other things, spell out what needs to be done to detect an outbreak.
The contingency blueprint will also give guidelines on how to isolate victims at the early stage, choosing the most effective vaccine to contain the disease, and steps to take to prevent fatalities.
“We will also have to be more aggressive in our campaigns on hygiene and cleanliness in Sarawak and create a greater awareness of health issues,” said Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan Hong Nam.
“Even the Penans living far in the interior are being infected,” he said.
Dr Chan, who is the state disaster relief chairman, said contingency plans were needed to help the state deal with outbreaks of contagious diseases that now occur frequently.
“This was not the norm in the past.
“But now, our society has become more sophisticated. There are more people working, more children, more pre-school centres mushrooming all over the state and bigger groups of people and children mingling together.
“The transmission of diseases under present conditions has become more frequent and more rapid.
“It affects especially young children aged between eight months and four years,” he said.
On the hand, foot and mouth disease, Dr Chan said the number of reported cases totalled 7,028 as of yesterday.
There were 235 new cases in the past 24 hours, but none were reported to be serious.
The number of deaths stood at eight.

NUTP links illnesses to work stress

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) believes there is a connection between work stress at school and the number of teachers falling sick with serious illnesses.
Secretary-general Lok Yim Pheng said many young teachers were suffering from burnout, with women teachers suffering from cancer and the men from heart-related problems.
“Although we have no scientific proof, we believe it is connected to the work stress they are under, based on our verbal interviews with teachers,” she said when asked to elaborate on her working paper on Stress Management in Malaysian Schools: Helping Teachers and Students to Optimise their Performance at the 10th Malaysian Education Summit yesterday.
According to NUTP statistics, she said there are about 50 cases each year, with an insurance payout of RM2mil in total.
“Claims vary according to the illness, and range from RM44,000 to RM120,000,” she said, adding that most teachers remained in the profession after receiving the insurance claims.
She said these teachers were found mainly in urban areas such as Kuala Lumpur or in schools where the student population was high.

Farmers must wait three months

Star: PUTRAJAYA: Poultry farmers in Selangor, Perak and Penang affected by the H5N1 virus can start re-exporting to Singapore three months from the date of the last culling exercise in the area.
Singapore’s Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority in the meantime will only accept chicken, ducks and eggs from Negri Sembilan, Johor and Malacca.
Veterinary Services Department acting director-general Datuk Dr Mustapa Abdul Jalil said its Singapore counterpart agreed to consider importing processed and cooked duck meat from Perak.
“The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority will audit the companies’ processing procedures before approving the export of cooked and processed duck meat from the state,” he told a press conference yesterday.
Dr Mustapa warned farmers in Negri Sembilan, Malacca and Johor against accepting poultry from other states merely to increase exports and revenue.
“The repercussion is great for farms caught accepting birds from other states,” he said, adding that the department had records of output of all farms and could detect any sudden increase.
Dr Mustapa said there had been no new case of bird flu in the past week.
He said RM321,105 in compensation would be paid to affected farmers.

China bans organ trade after bad press from deaths

NST: BEIJING: China said yesterday it would ban the trade in human organs, amid domestic pressure to regulate the chaotic industry and reports that Japanese and Malaysians had died from botched Chinese transplants.
The Health Ministry issued regulations to go into effect on July 1, banning the purchase and sale of organs while also introducing a set of medical standards for transplants.
Hospitals will be banned from taking organs without written consent from the donor, according to the regulations that were published on the ministry’s web site and carried in the state press.
Only China’s top ranked hospitals with a medical ethics committee and a proven ability to carry out transplant operations will be allowed to do so.
The ministry also threatened to revoke hospitals’ licences if patients did not survive for a certain number of years.
"Medical institutions and doctors in this field who violate laws and regulations in conducting transplant operations will be punished according to relevant laws and regulations," the guidelines stated.
However the regulations did not appear to address what is widely recognised as the core problem — a dire shortage of donated organs.
The shortage — state press have said only about one per cent of all patients who need new organs get them — has fuelled what critics inside and outside China say is a rampant black market.
The underground industry meets demand not only domestically but from patients overseas.
To meet the rising demand, hospitals have been regularly accused of secretly taking organs from road accident victims and other dead patients without telling family members.
Sometimes hospitals buy organs from the deceased person’s family, but it is rare for families to consent as they traditionally want to keep the body intact.
Organs of executed prisoners are also harvested and sold to hospitals without consent, according to human rights groups and media reports.
Lawmakers have been pushing for a ban on organ trade since 1986, and the issue was raised at this month’s annual session of parliament.
The problem took on an international focus early this year after reports that Japanese and Malaysians had died after travelling to China for organ transplants.
Japan’s health ministry launched an investigation after the reports that at least seven Japanese died.
A spokeswoman for the World Health Organisation in Beijing, Aphaluck Bhatiasevi, described the trade in organs as "unethical and illegal".
"It has caused a lot of problems in some countries where poor people have to give up their kidneys for money," Bhatiasevi said.
She said there were ways other than trade to address organ shortages.
To encourage families to donate and avoid monetary transactions, countries such as Thailand have the Red Cross as the middleman, she said. It contacts consenting families, harvests the organ and provides it to hospitals free of charge.
"It’s not for profit. It’s a centralised system," Bhatiasevi said.
In some cases the Red Cross helps the families with funeral expenses, she said.
About 20,000 transplants are conducted in China each year, out of at least two million Chinese patients who need them, according to Chinese media.

Woman who allegedly got HIV in hospital dies

NST: SEGAMAT, JOHOR: Felda settler Norizan Ismail died last Friday, four years after allegedly contracting HIV in hospital.
Her husband, Rosli Mansor, 49, said she could not accept the fact that her decision to deliver her ninth child in a hospital had resulted in her contracting the disease.
"She prayed and hoped that she would live long enough to see all the children attain adulthood, but it was not to be," said Rosli.
Norizan, 46, of Felda Palong Timur, is believed to have been infected with HIV during a blood transfusion at Segamat District Hospital. She was later diagnosed HIV-positive.
Rosli said family members and neighbours were kind and considerate and did not ostracise her, which helped Norizan continue with her life.
However, her condition began to deteriorate from the beginning of the year, and she was admitted to Kuala Lumpur Hospital four times.
"She had difficulty breathing, could not swallow her food and had problems with her eyesight. She was about to undergo surgery at KLH to ease the complications when she died at 11pm," he said.
She was buried at Felda Palong Timur Satu on Saturday.
Rosli intends to continue with a legal suit against Segamat District Hospital, claiming it was the hospital's negligence that had caused suffering to the family.
Norizan had a blood transfusion during an emergency Caesarean section when she was seven months pregnant, on July 17, 2001. She received 11 pints of blood and was in a coma for a week. Her baby lived just 18 days.
Norizan spent two months in hospital.
Initially, she and Rosli decided not to tell the children about her condition but after several months, Norizan decided it was unfair to hide the truth from them.
"We were lucky to have an understanding family and a community who did not see us as outcasts," said Rosli.
The hardest part, he added, was coping with regular medical treatment at the hospital, which was about 40km away from their home.
"We earned less than RM1,000 a month and we had to seek treatment regularly."

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Another Primary School Ordered Close

KUCHING, March 28 (Bernama) -- One more primary school in Sarikei division has been ordered to close as the number of new Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) cases reported in the state increased to 235 Tuesday.
Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan said SK Nanga Engkamop in Julau was closed for two weeks after health teams confimed seven HFMD cases among the pupils.
"The number of cases seems to have increased due to the active case detection in schools, which reopened on Monday," Dr Chan, who is also Sarawak Disaster and Relief Management Committee chairman, said in his daily updates on HFMD here.
He said 21.7 per cent or 51 out of the 235 new cases reported over the last 24 hours were detected by the active case detection, whereby medical and dental staff were sent to schools throughout Sarawak for the HFMD screening.
The latest closure brought to 46 the number of primary schools ordered to shut down although 17 of them had reopened since yesterday.
Dr Chan said Sarawak had reported 7,026 infected children since the outbreak was first detected in Sibu last month, with the death toll remaining at eight, including three cases confirmed to be Enterovirus 71 (EV71) positive.
Over the last 24 hours, 25 new admissions were reported at hospitals in Kapit, Sarikei, Bintulu, Sibu, Marudi and Mukah, bringing the cumulative admissions to 1,186 so far.
He said 77 HFMD patients were still awarded but no critically ill cases had been reported, including the 10 affected Penan children from Long Singgu in Belaga, who were evacuated to Bintulu Hospital by helicopter on Saturday.
At present 22 infected children are being treated at the Bintulu hospital, 15 at the Sarikei Hospital, nine at Kapit Hospital and five at the Sarawak Hospital here.
Meanwhile, the ministry has extended the closure of all kindergartens and preschool centres in Sarawak for another one week until April 2.

Hospitech Confident Of Good Sales For Its Medical Devices

KUALA LUMPUR, March 28 (Bernama) -- Hospitech Resources Bhd, Malaysia's leading home-grown integrated designer, developer, manufacturer and distributor of disposable generic and critical care medical devices, expects to introduce its latest critical care medical catheters this year, said its managing director Jimmy Goh.
"Hospitech expects these catheters to generate significant sales in the first 12 months as they are confident that the range of products, especially the high-end, cost-efficient critical care disposable generic and critical care products will be able to generate good sales in the existing markets," Goh told reporters after the launch of the company's prospectus, here Tuesday.
Goh said that the global medical devices market was worth more than RM850 billion.
"The brand new catheters that would be marketed are namely, Ryles Catheter, Stomach Catheters, Female Catheter and Infant Feeding Catheter and these catheters are specially designed for use in complex medical procedures involving gastrointestinal and urinary catherization."
He said the group will also commence research and development for its Renal Care System this year and expected the medical devices to be commercially available in 2008. It will also continue with the development of its Blood Diagnostic System which is expected to be launched in 2008 also.
Hospitech which is enroute for listing on Bursa Malaysia said part of the proceeds from its share offer exercise will be used for research and development.
"The growth in the range of medical devices and their increasing sophistication is fast expanding as a key market to growth, therefore, we have allocated a sum of RM12.1 million from the proceeds of the listing to be used for R&D activities such as plant and machinery investment," Goh said.
Asked on market expansion, he said that by 2008, Hospitech will expand its market to Japan and United States to further market their upcoming products namely, Anaesthetic Filter, Blood Tubing Line, and Renal Care System.
Currently, Hospitech markets its medical devices to Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei, China, Columbia, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan.
Established in 1985, Hospitech has two wholly-owned subsidiaries namely Hospitech Manufacturing Services Sdn Bhd (HMFG) and Hospitech Marketing Sdn Bhd (HMKT).

PSD scholars find hospital stint fulfilling

Star: SHAH ALAM: Be curious, be prepared for the worst and have a good breakfast before heading to the hospital, as you will be very busy.
That is the advice from four Public Service Department (PSD) scholars to some 1,800 SPM top scorers who have applied for PSD medical scholarships and have been shortlisted to undergo a three-day stint at government hospitals.
The four PSD scholars – K. Anjanna (medicine), Nurul Hidayah Mizan (pharmacy), Lim Renly (pharmacy) and Low Chin Yeong (pharmacy) – had all gone through similar stints as part of their A-level course.
However, the stint this time around is mandatory for those who have been short-listed, and it begins tomorrow.
It intends to expose students to the rigors and realities of being a doctor.
PSD medical scholar Anjanna, 19, said the stint proved very useful to her as she got to see how doctors worked.
“They are very busy. They may also not have time to take you around everywhere and explain everything to you, so you must take the initiative and ask questions and explore the hospital yourself.”
Anjanna said she found the cancer ward of the hospital the most depressing, as many of the patients were her age.
“We always think that cancer is an old person's disease but that is not true. But after seeing all that, I'm more committed to becoming a doctor as I want to be that person who wakes up at 2am to save someone's life,” she said.
Low, 19, said one had to be prepared for gory situations especially in the emergency room.
“It is very normal to see broken legs, arms, and bodies split open after road accidents,” she said, adding that she could cope with it.
None of these incidents seemed to faze the scholars and they said it was “really cool” to follow doctors on their rounds.
Nurul Hidayah also said that making a good impression in terms of dressing was a must.
“Do not be late,” she said, adding that nurses were also a good source of information.

Pahang gets a new hospital

Star: TEMERLOH: Pahang has a spanking new hospital to replace the ailing Mentakab Hospital, which is more than 80 years old.
Renamed Hospital Haji Ahmad Shah, after the current ruler, the RM490mil state-of-the-art hospital was opened by the Pahang Sultan yesterday.
In his speech, Sultan Ahmad Shah reminded the people to adopt a healthy lifestyle and balanced diet.
He said all Malaysians should carry out some form of exercise regularly and maintain a high level of cleanliness.
“One must remember that there is no wealth like health,” he said, adding that the people should stay away from unhealthy habits such as smoking and drinking, incest and drug abuse.
Sultan Ahmad Shah also commended the efforts by the Health Ministry in responding promptly to the bird flu and hand, foot and mouth disease outbreaks.
He said Health Minister Dr Chua Soi Lek’s spontaneous action calmed public anxiety over the situation.
The minister, in his speech, said the hospital was planned under the Seventh Malaysia Plan as part of the Government’s efforts to provide quality healthcare to the people nationwide.
He said operations at the hospital, which was completed in January last year, had started three months later.
Present at the ceremony were Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob, Health Ministry secretary-general Datuk Dr Mohd Nasir Ashraf and director-general Datuk Dr Ismail Merican.

Worried parents keep kids home

NST: KUCHING, SARAWAK: Where have all the children gone? This is what visitors to the city may ask in the wake of the hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) outbreak here.
This has led to parents pulling their children out of schools and avoiding public places like shopping complexes until the crisis is over.
A random survey among schools here showed that most Standard One, Two and Three classes were empty.
Patrons at shopping complexes comprised largely adults with few children in tow.
Parents interviewed said they were not taking chances with new cases coming to light daily.
MAS flight steward David Gregory, 40, said his lifestyle had changed as the first thing he did every time he returned home was to wash his hands.
The father of three said he and his wife Anita could not hug their children on returning home as they had to make sure they were clean first.
"We now have to wash up or take our bath before we touch them," he said, adding that his older children, Amanda, 13, and Ashleigh, 10, also had to do so before holding four-year-old Daryl.
Gregory said he and his wife were worried for their children’s health when the HFMD outbreak was announced.
They feared the worst as the coxsackie epidemic in 1997 in Sibu had killed 31 children.
Single mother Nurasikin Mohd Marikan, 31, said she had left her four-year-old son, Mohd Zhul Aqeed, with her 61-year-old mother.
"His kindergarten has been closed for three weeks and I have to work. So, this is a good solution for us."
The Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) receptionist calls home three times a day to check on her son.
"Zhul is keen to return to class, but I will only send him back when the epidemic is under control," she said.
Sandra Logie, 32, said she worried every time relatives visited her Taman Linang home as they could be carriers of the virus.
Her children Sean Isik Patrick, 10, daughter Kim Randu, 9, and Shyrqarl Bryan, 4, have not left the house since the outbreak.
"I get very paranoid these days. I lost my first-born and I don’t want to lose any of my children due to negligence," she added.
Playing outdoors is out of the question as she fears a squatter settlement nearby could be a possible source of the disease.

Meanwhile, 17 primary schools ordered to temporarily close early this month re-opened yesterday.
The schools were in Miri (six), Kuching (five), Mukah (five) and Limbang (one).
Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan told reporters that the health department will be sending health and dental teams to monitor the schools.
Three primary schools — SK Riam in Miri and SK Abang Amin and SK Nanga Strass, both in Sarikei — were ordered to close yesterday.
These schools had 17 pupils suspected to have symptoms of the HFMD disease.
Another 75 suspected cases of HFMD were reported in the State over the last 24 hours, bringing the total so far to 6,793.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Symposium to feature biomedicine

Sun2Surf: PETALING JAYA: It became a byword only in recent years, but the term, "biotechnology" is as old as the turn of the century.
A Hungarian engineer, Karl Ereky, coined the term in 1919 when he envisioned a biochemical age similar to the stone and iron ages.
With the whole world now embroiled in a major biological revolution ? a much-awaited symposium on this engine of growth is coming to town.
The symposium, largely featuring medical biotechnology will be held in Kuala Lumpur and Penang and will host seven prominent speakers.
Chaired by Prof Choong-Chin Liew, director of cardiovascular genome unit, Harvard Medical School, Boston, the symposium is organised by Nantah Education and Research Foundation (NERF) and Chondrogene Ltd Toronto, Canada.
Speaking to theSun recently, organising committee chairman Tan Sri Law Hieng Ding said the event is a "very rare occasion" that will lend a preview of new opportunities for entrepreneurs, bankers, scientists and researchers in the country.
He said the symposium would also feature new advances in medical biotechnology, especially on the lately launched innovations in colorectal cancers and inflammatory diseases.
Law said the nation's biotechnology sector generated a mere US$40 million (RM150 million) and this compares unfavourably with neighbouring countries like Singapore, South Korea and India.
"With a very rich biodiversity in hand, there is a need for us in Malaysia to take advantage of the available resources and nurture a major engine of growth by advancing the biotechnological sciences," said Law who is also deputy president of NERF.
He said Malaysia is blessed with a vast potential for the development and expansion of the biotechnology industry as the nation is one of the world's 12 mega biodiversity centres.
Malaysia's endorsement of biotechnology as the new economic engine was outlined in its National Biotechnology Policy launched last April.
The one-day symposium will be held in Kuala Lumpur on March 28 and in Penang on March 30.
For details, call 03-2148 3053, 032148 2501 or email

Moonlighting: Fomca supports govt docs

Sun2Surf: PETALING JAYA: Fomca has taken an opposing stand against the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) on the move to allow government doctors to moonlight their service as locums in the private sector.
Fomca vice-president K.Koris says: "We support the decision because it is a problem created by the government's policy."
Koris, who is also Penang Consumers Protection Association president, said the financial woes of young doctors, especially the non-Malays, are actually due to the government.
"Those who are unable to get financial aid from the government or their education have burdened their parents. The salary that they get for five years of 'compulsory service' to the government, which I choose to call 'compulsory suffering', does not substantiate their parents' support.
"These young doctors need to moonlight to help their parents settle borrowings used to finance their medical courses. So, don't blame them for being overworked.
"It's a government-created problem," he added.
Koris urged the government to look into the root causes of the problem instead of pointing the finger at the "over worked doctors and locums." said Koris.
CAP president S.M.Mohamed Idris had on Saturday (March 25, 2006) issued a statement objecting to the decision to allow government doctors to do locum work in the private sector.

Taboos an impediment to curbing disease

NST: Taboos among rural people are hindering the work of medical personnel in curbing the hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) that is making its way into the State’s interior.
The disease has been reported among semi-nomadic Penan children in Long Singgu, Belaga, deep in the Kapit Division.
Eight of them contracted the disease and all were warded at the Bintulu hospital on Saturday.
They were reported to be in stable condition yesterday.
A medical team was prevented from ascertaining the cause of death of a three-year-old girl from the Sungai Belawai area in Kapit.
She died on Friday and her family refused permission to conduct tests on her, Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan said yesterday.
"There were no external signs, but we believe she could have (died from HFMD)," he added.
If confirmed, she would be the ninth to have died of the disease.
Dr Chan said a medical team had flown to her Rumah Bilu longhouse when they received news of the death.
"The team, however, faced resistance from the girl’s family when they wanted to take swabs of the body," Dr Chan said.
He told reporters in Kapit that the girl’s grandmother had earlier refused to have the girl admitted to Kapit hospital.
"They have a lot of taboos and this is only one of many impediments medical teams had to face in trying to check the epidemic there," he added.
Dr Chan said there had been cases of families of the deceased refusing permission for post-mortems.
"While we respect their beliefs, we also try to make them understand why we are doing this," he said.
The Sungai Belawai area has a high number of HFMD cases.
Dr Chan said Universiti Malaysia Sarawak would conduct a study to determine why more children contract the HFMD there than in any other area.
A total of 107 new cases were reported in the State yesterday.
The lower number — it was 187 on Saturday — was attributed to the closure of rural clinics during the weekend.
The new cases bring the total number of children infected with the disease to 6,718.
Sarikei, a few kilometres from Sibu, reported the highest number of new cases with 23.
Some of the other cases were in Limbang (14), Bintulu (13), Kuching (11), Miri (10) and Kapit (eight).

Govt mulling compulsory vaccination

NST: Although vaccinated chickens and ducks may not go down well with importers in Singapore, the consensus among breeders is that the country’s RM5 billion a year poultry industry must be protected against bird flu.
Agriculture and Agro- based Industry Deputy Minister Datuk Mah Siew Keong said poultry farmers had lost millions of ringgit since the deadly H5N1 virus was detected.
According to breeders, only 20 per cent of the country’s chickens are exported to Singapore, while the rest are for local consumption.
However, 80 per cent of ducks from Perak are exported to Singapore.
Singapore has stopped importing poultry from Perak since the bird flu outbreak.
Mah said chicken farmers wanted the Government to vaccinate the birds and protect the industry.
He said his ministry was testing the effectiveness of the vaccination and the results would be known in two weeks.
Malaysia is also holding talks with Singapore on the duration of its import ban and whether it would accept vaccinated chicken and ducks.
Mah was speaking to reporters after attending an "eat chicken" campaign organised by Perak Gerakan here yesterday.
Among those present were Gerakan vice-president and Perak Gerakan chairman Datuk Chang Ko Youn and national Gerakan wanita head Tan Lian Hoe.
Mah, who is the national Gerakan Youth chief, urged non-governmental organisations and political parties to organise similar campaigns to dispel fears among the public of consuming chicken.
He said his ministry would hold talks with States hit by the bird flu on moving duck farms away from ponds and disused mining pools, which attracted migratory birds, believed to be carriers of the H5N1 virus.

First to karaoke, then to medical check-up

NST: Army medical officers have come up with an ingenious way to entice the Orang Asli to attend medical check-ups.
They draw them with karaoke sessions and live concerts, after which the Orang Asli queue up at the medical camp.
"Based on our experience, the response from the Orang Asli would be very poor without karaoke sessions or live concerts," said Kapten Rosli Kassim, when met at the Orang Asli settlement in Kampung Sungai Ruil in Cameron Highlands recently.
They will usually hold them the night before the medical check-up camps.
"They are quite shy and we use this to draw them out. But they can be quite a handful once they’ve warmed up. There was one occasion when the karaoke session lasted until almost 4am."
At a recent session, the small crowd which had gathered under the tent about 9pm sat quietly despite repeated calls from army personnel to come up and sing.
Things only warmed up after about an hour, when a group of Orang Asli youth finally plucked up the courage to belt out an up-tempo Malay number on stage.
From then on, army personnel had their hands full with non-stop song requests from the villagers until nearly midnight.
Orang Asli youth Rumi Junos and his friends hoped that more free medical check-ups would be carried in their village.
"At least we get to sing as many songs as we want for free," he said.
It was obvious that the karaoke session that evening did the trick as more than 1,000 Orang Asli from Kampung Sungai Ruil and the surrounding villages turned up the following day for the medical camp.

Analysis reveals tap water in Klang Valley safe to drink

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Water supplied to homes in the Klang Valley from Sungai Selangor is safe to drink.
The New Straits Times collected tap water samples and water from Sungai Selangor and sent it for analysis last week and the verdict is that the tap water is safe to drink and did not contain high levels of ammonia.
The river water had a high level of suspended solids but the experts who carried out the analysis concluded that this was not a critical parameter in determining the safety of water.
At the beginning of the month, consumers in certain areas in the Klang Valley had complained of smelly tap water.
Investigations by the Department of Environment revealed that the Bukit Tagar landfill in Rawang, Hulu Selangor, was the cause of the foul odour as there had been seepage from the landfill into Sungai Selangor.
It was revealed that the foul smell was due to an exceptionally high level of ammonia in the water which seeped from the landfill.
On March 13, a New Straits Times team took tap water samples from a house in Petaling Jaya’s Section 1 whose owner had complained of foul-smelling water coming from the tap at the beginning of the month.
The team also took water samples from Sungai Selangor at three major water intake points in Batang Berjuntai.
The samples were sent to ALS Technichem (M) Sdn Bhd for testing.
The company’s environmental department account manager, Nurida Mohd Yusop, said the samples were tested using methods approved for examination of water and wastewater by the US Public Health Association.
"The analysis showed that the pH level, turbidity, metal and chemical contents were below the permitted level set by Standard B of the Third Schedule in the Environmental Quality (Sewage and Industrial Effluents) Regulations 1979," she said.
She said if the substances were higher than the permissible level, it could contribute to health problems.
The results, she said, revealed that suspended solids in the river water were higher than the permitted level, at 159mg per litre.
The permissible level is 100mg per litre.
Nurida said suspended solids was not a critical parameter in determining the safety of water.
She said coliform and the E. coli bacteria were not found in both samples.
According to the analysis, aluminium, arsenic, chromium and copper were among the heavy metals found in the samples taken in the river water, which could be due to industrial waste or raw materials from industrial processes being washed into the river.
She said the tap water samples, however, revealed that most of the metals were removed at the plant before the water reached homes.

Penan kids hit by HFM

Star: KUCHING: Eight Penan children from the remote Long Singgu settlement in the Belaga district in the upper Rejang basin have contracted the hand, foot and mouth (HFM) disease.
They were airlifted by helicopter to the Bintulu hospital yesterday, said Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan.
“All of them are in a stable condition,” he added.
He said 107 new cases were reported and there were 45 new admissions yesterday.
Dr Chan said the drop in the number of new cases might be due to government clinics being closed during the weekends.
Fourteen new cases were reported in northern Sarawak's Limbang division. However, only one of the 14 children was admitted to hospital.
Dr Chan said there were 23 new cases in Sarikei division and that all the infected children were warded.
This brings the total to 94 children warded statewide, including 36 in Sarikei hospital.
Dr Chan said the total number of HFM cases had now risen to 6,718. Sibu division tops the list with 2,062 cases, followed by Miri (989), Bintulu (858), Kuching (804), Sarikei (626) and Mukah (562).
Year One to Three pupils in all the 1,265 primary schools statewide will return to school today after an extended first term holiday.
The state health authorities ordered more than 40 primary schools closed last week.
All kindergartens, pre-schools, childcare centres and nurseries will remain closed for another week.

Shock treatment looms

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: A total of 1,808 from the 15,500 SPM top scorers, who had applied for Public Services Department (PSD) medical scholarships, have been shortlisted to go through a “shock treatment” at government hospitals.
The students will undergo a mandatory three-day stint from Wednesday at the hospitals, including going to the mortuary and operation theatre.
The scholarship hopefuls will also be taken to other critical units in hospitals like the accident & emergency unit, outpatient clinic, and maternity and orthopaedic wards.
The students will be sent to 46 hospitals and will be required to do a written self-evaluation on their experience.
PSD director-general Datuk Seri Ismail Adam said they wanted the students to see doctors, among others, dealing with dead bodies, badly injured patients and also delivering babies to show them that one needed passion to become a good doctor.
“The stint will enable the students to know at the outset what being a doctor is all about and we will be able to choose those, who can really make it in the profession.
“Those who are still confident after familiarising themselves with the mortuary, operatingtheatre and other sections of the hospital will be called for the final interview,” said Ismail, who thanked the Health Ministry for its cooperation in facilitating the visits.
He told The Star that some of the scholarship applicants might not want to take up medicine after seeing what the profession entailed.
“Those who decide not to pursue medicine after the hospital stint would be allowed to apply for PSD scholarships in other fields,” he added.
Meanwhile, shortlisted candidates had started receiving letters from the PSD from Saturday – a day after the official closing date for scholarship applications.
PSD said those who had applied for scholarships to do medicine and had not received any letters, could check to see if they had been shortlisted for the hospital stint by calling the PSD Hotline at 03-8885 3397.
Those unable to attend the programme for any reasons should call the PSD hotline immediately to make alternative arrangements.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

I received another man’s heart

NST: The doctors gave him six months to live after he suffered a heart attack. Albert Gunaratnam looked at his two teenage daughters and vowed to see them through adulthood. Eight years later, the longest living heart transplant patient in Malaysia talks to K.P. WARAN and ANNIE FREEDA CRUEZ about his life.

ALBERT Gunaratnam clutched his chest as the pain became unbearable despite the medication prescribed by the doctors, and looked at his wife who was standing at a corner of the hospital ward talking to a man in a white overcoat.
He saw her wiping away a tear. Focusing on the face of the man who was adjusting the stethoscope around his neck, he could make out the words the man was mouthing: "I’m sorry, his chances are very slim."
Gunaratnam knew what those "words" meant — he was dying.
His wife, Terry Nelson, walked to his bedside and held his hands, tears streaming down her face.
Gunaratnam clutched her hands, closed his eyes and prayed. "God, I have so many commitments. I want to see my daughters grow up. Don’t take my life."
He patted Terry’s hands and said: "Don’t worry, I am not leaving you. And tell Jacinta and Cynthia that Pappa will be all right." His condition continued to deteriorate over the following months, making routine chores such as brushing teeth a difficult task.
"I could neither walk nor stand. Breathing became something I had to concentrate on. At one point I could only sleep sitting up, drifting off for a few minutes and waking up to catch my breath," he said.
But that was then. At the National Heart Institute recently, a hale and hearty Gunaratnam looked into Terry’s eyes and said: "I would not have made it without your support. You were there every inch of the way ... the children, too."
Terry broke into a wide smile, ran her hands through his white hair and gave him a hug. She was lost for words.
Terry said she owed her husband’s life to a mother’s decision eight years ago to allow the heart of her 21-year-old son who was killed in an road accident to be transplanted. That transplanted heart saved Gunaratnam’s life.
Gunaratnam remembers Feb 17, 1996, when he woke up at 5am with a throbbing pain in his arm and chest. He paced the room, drank some water and tried to get back to sleep, hoping the discomfort would go away.
At 7am, as his wife was about to drive their daughter to a clinic, Gunaratnam told her to wait, got dressed and got into the car. At the clinic, the doctor told him he was having a heart attack and he was rushed to a private hospital.
There he learnt that the heart attack had damaged major muscles of his heart. His heartbeat was barely audible, he had at most six months to live and a transplant might be the only way to prolong his life.
Taking a daily dosage of carvidolol and medication to help against blood clotting, Gunaratnam survived. From 81.81kg, he shrank to just 58kg.
In September 1997, suffering from an abnormal heart rhythm, he was warded at University Malaya Medical Centre where he had to undergo electric shock treatment to rectify the problem.
In January 1998, he went to the Madras Medical Mission in Chennai, India, in the hope of getting a heart transplant.
After a series of tests, they told him that with an AB positive blood group, it would be difficult to get a donor. He was asked to return to Malaysia and wait for a call.
In the meantime, history had already been made in Malaysia. On Dec 18, 1997, the National Heart Institute successfully carried out its first heart transplant on R. Sathrugnam.
Gunaratnam registered as a potential recipient with IJN in March 1998, but he didn’t have to wait long.
On April 9, a tearful Terry called him at the office to relay the news that a donor had been found.
IJN heart transplant co-ordinator S. Ramayee said the donor was an ex-state athlete who had been in a motorcycle accident in Ipoh.
Despite objections from other relatives, the mother allowed his heart and other organs to be harvested for transplant.
"The mother said that the youth had read about Sathrugnam’s heart transplant, and had said he could not see why people were making a big fuss about organ donations. He told her that if anything should happen to him, then all his organs should be offered for transplant.
"Furthermore, his blood type was AB positive and Gunaratnam was the only compatible recipient on the list," said Ramayee.
Escorted by police outriders, the heart arrived at IJN by road at 3am on April 10. It had been harvested from the brain- dead youth at 10.30pm the previous day.
The transplant procedure began at 3.15am, led by Tan Sri Yahya Awang and Datuk Dr Ahmad Salahuddin. And at 6.30am Gunaratnam was transferred to the intensive care unit.
When he opened his eyes and saw the nurses and his wife, he made a strange request: he wanted rice with rasam (Indian soup) and fried fish. He was on a liquid diet for that day and got to eat his rice, rasam and fish the next day.
"I am thankful to colleagues at UMW Toyota who not only visited me but also sent my children to school, did household chores and helped me with hospital visits," he said.
Today, Gunaratnam, Terry and their children are involved in seminars and campaigns on organ transplants, travelling and talking to the public and also giving encouragement and confidence to would-be recipients.
"Many people take the daily things that they do for granted. I have been through it all... from the brink of death to the eight years now that I had spent with my family and friends.
"This precious gift came about because of a kind woman who, despite her grief, decided to make the sacrifice of donating her son’s organs so others could live. We need more such people."
The donor’s cornea, kidneys and bones were also transplanted into other patients while the healthy valves in Gunaratnam’s damaged heart were removed and transplanted in others.
As providence would have it, Gunaratnam met the donor’s family at a transplant seminar one day. Last year, he was invited to the donor’s sister’s wedding in Teluk Intan.
"We did not talk about the donor or the transplant as it was a happy occasion. As we took leave, the mother told Terry to take good care of me," said Gunaratnam. "The young man’s heart lives on in me."

Another 53 children admitted for HFMD

NST: Another 53 children were admitted to hospitals yesterday with symptoms of the hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD).
Sarikei Hospital received 19 patients, Bintulu Hospital (eight), Sibu Hospital (seven) and Kapit Hospital (six).
However, none of them was reported to be in serious condition. The latest admission brings the total number of children warded to 106.
Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan said 187 new cases of suspected HFMD, including the 53 children, were reported over the last 24 hours.
He said 43 of them were in Sarikei, Kapit (28), Miri (22), Kuching (20), Bintulu (18), Samarahan (16) and the rest from other towns.
With the new cases, the total now stands at 6,611 since the outbreak early this year.
Sibu has the largest number, with 2,952 cases, Miri (979), Bintulu (843), Kuching (793), Sarikei (603) and Mukah (556).

Girl tests negative for bird flu

Star: PENANG: A three-year-old girl from Permatang Bogak, Kepala Batas, has been discharged from Penang Hospital after she was tested negative for bird flu.
Health Ministry parliamentary secretary Datuk Lee Kah Choon said the girl was discharged yesterday.
The girl was admitted after she developed flu-like symptoms.
She had been under observation after bird flu was detected in Permatang Bogak on March 20.
Lee said the National Influenza Pandemic Preparedness Plan that was implemented after the outbreak of bird flu in the country had been proven effective and the situation was now under control.
“There are no new cases reported in Penang but we are still monitoring the situation nationwide,” he said after attending the press conference on SMJK Convent Datuk Keramat school extension project.
Lee said the veterinary department would be carrying out the culling of birds exercise should there be a bird flu outbreak while the health department would conduct door-to-door checks to detect people with flu-like symptoms.

Soi Lek on a mission to check lifestyle diseases

Star: When Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek sets out on his daily morning jog, he is burdened by the fact that only two out of every 10 Malaysians exercise regularly to keep fit.
And he is not proud of another fact that in the Asean region, Malaysians are ranked the highest when it comes to obesity.
“We have lifestyle diseases spreading across the nation,” he warned.
Dr Chua is on a mission to bring down the incidence of lifestyle diseases like obesity, diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol.
He has already convinced the Government to allocate RM50mil for the Health Promotion Board, which will be set up under his ministry to carry out activities to promote a fitter Malaysia.
The Health Promotion Board Bill will be tabled at this Parliament sitting. The board will be headed by a chief executive officer and its members will include officials from various non-governmental organisations and professional people.
“The board will function like a private sector body. We want the leadership to run it like a business because we want to emphasise the importance of fighting lifestyle diseases,” said Dr Chua.
And health promotion, he stressed, was imperative if Malaysia was not to be saddled with such diseases.
As he sees it, the individual is ultimately responsible for his own health but the upward trend in lifestyle diseases is not comforting at all.
He said 30% of Malaysians suffered from obesity, hypertension and high cholesterol, while 8.5% suffered from diabetes.
“About 80% of Malaysians do not exercise.
“If we don't exercise and eat the right food regularly, then our immune systems will break down and we can be vulnerable to diseases,” he added.
According to Dr Chua, the number of kidney patients on dialysis machines in Malaysia was among the highest in the region.
And half of them are related to complications related to diabetes.
“Twenty years ago, only 6% of the population had diabetes. A lot of people think that we will hit 12% by 2020,” Dr Chua said.
In addition to lifestyle diseases, Malaysia is also facing a range of emerging diseases like avian flu and severe acute respiratory syndrome while others such as tuberculosis and malaria are making a comeback.

CAP objects to government docs doing locum work

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The decision to allow government doctors to do locum work in the private sector has been met with an emphatic “no” from the Penang Consumers Association (CAP).
CAP president S.M. Mohamed Idris said government doctors were already overworked and spending long hours attending to their duties.
“How can they do justice to their patients if they take on the added responsibility of private practice?” he asked.
He said doctors would not be able to concentrate fully on their jobs with such a move as their energy would be divided.
“This is because paying patients will command more attention than their non-paying counterparts,” he added in a statement yesterday.
It was announced on Friday that government doctors could do locum work when they were off duty, provided that they observed certain rules.
Mohamed Idris said the Government should instead raise charges at public health facilities to generate extra revenue, hence allowing it to raise its doctors' wages.
This remuneration should be high enough to rule out the need for locum work, he added.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the move had been taken to retain doctors in the public sector.
“The matter had been studied by the Health Ministry and forwarded to the Government for implementation.
“Otherwise, the situation will become worse and they will resign from government service,” he said after launching the 2006 Felda AAM Malaysia Rally at Bukit Goh, near Kuantan, yesterday.
Najib also stressed that while government doctors had been given permission to do locum work, they were still required to give priority to their duties at public hospitals.

‘Oncologist’ from China nabbed

Malay Mail: A 56-year-old Chinese national who claimed to be an oncologist was detained by an Immigration team for treating a local cancer patient two days ago.
The man from Beijing entered the country 10 days ago with a valid social visit pass.
When Immigration officials searched his apartment in Malacca, following a tip-off two days ago, the man produced a business card which indicated he was a doctor attached to Putra Hospital in Jalan Bendahara.
Department enforcement director Datuk Ishak Mohamed said: “While he had a valid social pass, he was unable to produce a work permit.”
He said the man had two female assistants, aged 26 and 32, one of whom was a pharmacist.
The man was treating a woman suffering from neck cancer when officers knocked at the door of his fifth floor apartment unit in Jalan Taming Sari at 12.30pm on Thursday.
His assistants also entered Malaysia on social visit passes. Their job was strictly to assist him in treating patients.
The trio’s social visit passes are valid for a month.
“The medication they dispensed was not approved by the Health Ministry,” said Ishak.
The man is said to have visited Malaysia several times in the past to treat local patients.
The trio will be charged under the Immigration Act for abusing their social visit passes.
Asked when the trio would be charged, Ishak said: “We have to complete our investigations within 14 days.”
When contacted, a Putra Hospital staff said the man was not a staff there but had in the past acted as an adviser.

Mobile Teams Formed To Fight HFMD Outbreak

SIBU, March 25 (Bernama) -- The Sarawak government has set up 134 mobile teams statewide to educate the people on how to fight the hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD), which has spread to the semi-normadic Penans living in the remote interior.
Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan Hong Nam said the teams would also collect data and give whatever assistance necessary.
He said the government has also put on standby helicopters at Kuching, Sibu and Miri for medivac operations as hospitals in these towns have specialists to deal with serious cases.
"We will soon invite experts from the World Health Organisation to help us with the latest management techniques to deal with the epidemic situation," he told reporters at Sibu Airport after returning from trips to Kapit, Sarikei and Mukah Divisions, the HFMD hotspot areas.
Dr Chan said the government would spare no effort in fighting the HFMD outbreak, especially in the rural areas.
He said in places like Kapit Division where, because of the current low water situation in most of the rivers, the government was using helicopters to fly medical personnel in or to evacuate victims from longhouses to the nearest hospitals.
Dr Chan said three cases affecting Penan children in Long Singu in the Kapit division had been recorded.
"The victims, aged above two years old, have been flown to the Bintulu hospital where they are recovering," he said.
He said living so far away from town centres, their most probable cause of infection was through contacts made by their parents with traders.
Meanwhile, special clinics had been set up in the Sibu, Sarikei, Mukah and Kapit emergency units to specifically deal with suspected HFMD cases during the weekends from 8am to 1pm.
They include the Moss Road Polyclinic in Kuching and the new Tudan Health Centre in Miri.
On the latest situation, Dr Chan said there were 187 new cases detected today with the Sarikei Division registering the most (43 cases) followed by Kapit (29), Miri (22), Kuching (20), Bintulu (18) and Samarahan (16).
"The cumulative total statewide stands at 6,611 cases but we have the disease under control," he added.
He reiterated the need for operators of child care centres not to take lightly the government's decision to suspend their operation by another week, saying it was for the sake of the young children.

No Rearing Of Poultry Freely In Villages

MUAR, March 25 (Bernama)-- The government may no longer allow chicken and ducks to be reared freely in villages in efforts to protect the country's poultry industry which is worth billions of ringgit a year.
Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the move might be necessary in view of the bird flu virus.
He said the country's poultry industry was worth between RM4 billion and RM5 billion a year and efforts should be made to protect the industry.
"Currently, no chicken or ducks which are reared commercially are infected by the virus but the operators are worried," he said when met after a 4B Youth Movement Programme at Panchor here Saturday.
He said although samples sent for test in Ipoh were negative for the virus, a contingency plan was necessary to overcome the problem.
He also said that the bird flu situation in the country was under control.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Government Hospital Proposed For Shah Alam

SHAH ALAM, March 25 (Bernama) -- A government hospital is being planned for this city whose residents now depend on hospitals in surrounding districts such as Klang.
Rural and Regional Development Minister Datuk Seri Abdul Aziz Shamsudin, who is also the Shah Alam MP, said Section 7 was initially proposed as the location for the hospital but this was opposed by the residents who feared congestion.
The state government was still looking for an alternative site, he told Bernama after opening the annual general meeting of the Shah Alam City Council senior citizens club Saturday.
He said the proposed hospital would also benefit medical students of Universiti Teknologi Mara who would have access to a nearby hospital for their clinical training.

Government nod for its docs to act as locums for private sector

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: From today, government doctors are allowed to do locum work in the private sector when they are off duty.
In the past, many doctors have moonlighted as locums.
While the Government was aware of this, it could not take action because the health authorities were not able to track the locums down.
“Since we couldn’t do that (take action), I brought up the matter with the Cabinet, which decided that to allow the doctors to be locums,” said Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek.
In this way, doctors would continue serving the Government and at the same time get to work in the private sector, he told newsmen after opening an international conference on robotic urologic surgery at the KL Hospital yesterday.
A locum is a doctor filling in at a private clinic for a time or temporarily taking the place of another.
As a locum, a general practitioner is paid RM30 to RM40 an hour, and a specialist about RM80 an hour.

Dr Chua said there are five rules that doctors must observe before they take up locum services:
# They must first obtain permission from their head of department,
# They must give priority to their service at government hospitals,
# They must not slacken in their work,
# They can only do it on their days off or when they are on leave, and
# They cannot perform locum services if they are in enforcement units.

“We will send out a circular on this soon but the ruling takes effect immediately,” said Dr Chua.
There are about 10,000 government doctors and he estimates that 15% of them have taken up locum jobs.
Dr Chua encouraged those intending to become locums to take up personal insurance because the coverage provided by the Government does not include off-duty hours.
Malaysian Medical Association National Schomos (Section Concerning House Officers, Medical Officers and Specialists) chairman Dr Vasan Sinnadurai welcomed the move.
“It will supplement doctors’ income, especially now with the cost of living rising rapidly,” he said.
“Now, the doctors in the public sector will be encouraged to stay on with the Government and not drift to the private sector,” he added.

Beware of ‘doctors’ performing plastic surgery

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Beware of the so-called doctors who perform plastic surgery on your breasts. They could be injecting cooking oil into your body.
In some cases the damage caused by these quacks are so severe that when the patients seek professional help for damage control, it is too late.
Among the surgeries offered by these untrained surgeons are eyelid surgery, liposuction, and nose and breast augmentation.
The complications that patients could suffer from the sub-standard surgeries include severe infection, shifted implants, sinus discharge, sagging eyelids and eyes that could not shut.
Plastic surgeon Dr Kim K. Tan alleged that many non-doctors, in performing plastic surgery, are injecting silicone and different types of oil as well as other “funny” substances into their patients.
“Although these substances can enlarge one's breasts, there can be complications which will have long-term effects on the patients – as long as 20 years,” he said on the sidelines of the 8th annual scientific and general meeting of the Malaysian Association of Plastic, Aesthetic and Craniomaxillofacial Surgeons (MAPACS) yesterday.
Dr Tan is the organising chairman of the three-day conference that was opened by Deputy Health Minister Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad.
“The patients will normally come to us when they feel pain and when their breasts become hard,” he said, adding that the types of operations differ from one patient to another.
“Sometimes you have to take out the diseased part of the breast and put in an implant. Sometimes, you have to take the breast out,” he said, giving a gory scenario of what could go wrong.
He alleged that a lot of people were paid commissions and kickbacks when introducing friends to these quacks brought in by beauticians and beauty saloons.
MAPACS president Dr Angamuthu Rajoo said Chinese women in their 30s and 40s were the major patients of the unprofessional cosmetic “doctors”.
The association suspected that for every surgery done by genuine cosmetic surgeons, the untrained doctors do 10.
Dr Abdul Latiff said the Ministry realised there was ineffective enforcement over the quacks.

Kindergartens stay closed in Sarawak

NST: All kindergartens, day-care centres and preschools in the State will remain closed for another week as the Health Department wants to ensure that the "vulnerable group" does not contract the hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD).
"We will review the closure order on these premises after the extension period," Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan told reporters after chairing a meeting of health officers yesterday.
A total of 488 kindergartens and day-care centres and 534 preschools were ordered to shut down early this month by the Health Ministry for an indefinite period after children below the age of four were found to have contracted the deadly Enterovirus 71 (EV71) virus.
Dr Chan said children below four were the vulnerable group and likely to die if they were treated late for the disease.
Eight children with symptoms of HFMD who died were aged between eight months and four years.
Three of them succumbed to EV71 while more tests on the others are being conducted to determine the cause of death.
Dr Chan said primary schools which were ordered closed could resume their classes on Monday provided that they had fulfilled the two-week period.
"As long as they have fulfilled the period, they can resume their classes," he said.
He said all Standard One to Four pupils could return to the classes on Monday provided they were not from the schools that had been ordered to shut down.
"The authorities will be keeping a close watch on these pupils as we do not want them to get the disease."
Nine more primary schools were ordered shut for two weeks yesterday, bringing the total to 41 to date, after 25 children were found to have HFMD symptoms.
The schools are SK Santebu, SK Kung Cheng, SK Mador, SK Ulu Meradong, SK Bukit Kinjau, SK Agama and SK Sarikei (all in Sarikei division) and SK Batu Danau and SK Gadong in Limbang division.
Dr Chan said 218 new cases of suspected HFMD were detected over the last 24 hours, bringing the total number to 6,424.
Fifty of the new cases are in Sarikei, Miri (39), Mukah (27), Kapit (26), Sibu (24), Bintulu (19) and the rest from other towns.
Fifty-seven of the new cases were admitted to hospital while the rest were given outpatient treatment. Dr Chan said none of the patients was in critical condition.

Da Vinci gives Institute of Urology a special aura

NST: The Institute of Urology has made history of sorts in robotic surgery. Since 2004, it has performed more than 100 cases of robotic surgery.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said the institute was the first in the world to perform complex stone surgery, especially nephrolithotomy, using the robot.
"It is the first in Asia to do donor nephrectomy and perform a series of nephrectomies for non-functioning kidneys," he said at the launch of the two-day International Conference on Robotic Surgery at Kuala Lumpur Hospital.
He said a series of robotic radical prostatectomies performed by the institute were published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The Health Ministry acquired two three-arm da Vinci robots costing RM10.6 million, with the first robot installed at the institute in March 2004 and the second at Hospital Sultanah Aminah, Johor Baru, in June last year.
Dr Chua said the acquisition marked a significant milestone in the history of the institute, which served as the centre of excellence and national referral centre for minimally invasive surgery.
"The setting up of the Operational Theatre with 3-dimensional (3D) view is the second in the world, the only other place with a similar facility being the Vattikuti Urology Institute in Detroit," he said.
Malaysia, he added, was also the first in the world to have 3D as a permanent feature in the lecture theatre for regular viewing by delegates and participants in Continuing Medical Education programmes.
The person behind the Urology Operation Theatre is Datuk Dr Sahabudin Raja Mohamed, head of the urology department.
Dr Sahabudin is also the president of the Malaysian Urological Association.
Dr Chua said the 3D theatre would help in the training of robotic surgeons.
He also pointed out that this was the first conference in the Asia-Pacific region to provide 3D facility, and this would remain a permanent feature for future laparoscopic and robotic surgery conferences.
World renowned urologist Professor Dr Mani Menon and his team provided their expertise in setting up these facilities.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Government Doctors Can Do Locum

KUALA LUMPUR, March 24 (Bernama) -- All doctors and surgeons in government hospitals are allowed to do locum work to enable them to earn extra income after working hours and during leave, Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said.
However, they were advised to take up insurance as protection for their patients and should ensure that there was no conflict of interest with their part-time jobs, he said.
"We know that many do locum work without we have decided to allow doctors to do locum on condition that they get written approval," he told reporters after launching an international conference on Robotic Urologic Surgery at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital here.
Dr Chua said about 15 per cent of doctors in government hospitals did locum without government approval and would not get any protection from the government except when doing their official duties.
"We will not force them to take up insurance cover but they have to bear in mind the risks involved," he added.
Dr Chua said, however, that doctors attached to the ministry's enforcement division would not be allowed to do locum for fear that it would lead to a conflict of interest.
He said guidelines on locum work would be distributed at government hospitals soon.

Three Admitted For Avian Flu Test

KUALA LUMPUR, March 24 (Bernama) -- Three more people had been admitted on Thursday after they were believed to have caught the flu bug in the northern states of the Peninsular where the avian flu virus had been detected.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said that the three were found to be staying within the 300-metre radius from where the avian flu virus had been detected in the poultry and the migratory wild birds.
"They were admitted so that tests can be conducted on the H5N1 virus, and they can leave if the results are negative," he told reporters after launching an international conference on Robotic Urologic Surgery at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital here, Friday.
The three cases involved a 21-year-old man in Taiping, a three-year-old boy in Penang, and a 23-year-old man in Batu Gajah.
Dr Chua said todate Malaysia had not recorded any positive H5N1 virus cases.

English camp to teach children about nutrition

NST: Breakfast has long been touted as the most important meal of the day: It boosts energy and lets a person gear up to face the day.
However, a recent survey of 12,000 primary schoolchildren by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia has found that 30 per cent go to school on an empty stomach.
This means one in three children go without breakfast, usually because of lack of time or appetite in the morning.
Nestle’s Breakfast Cereals is therefore teaming up with the New Straits Times to organise "Koko’s Smart Start Camp" to make schoolgoing children aware of the importance of good nutrition.
Nestle’s Malaysia-Singapore country business manager Nirmalah Thurai said the one-day camp would also help improve the level of English of the participants as all activities would be in English.
"A proper lesson guide has been developed especially for the camp, in line with the school syllabus for Health Education and Science," she said at the launch of the project by Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam at SK Batu Berendam II yesterday.
New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd group editor-in-chief Datuk Hishamuddin Aun said the camp would help promote a healthy lifestyle while encouraging language use.
The camp is open to Year Five pupils from 35 schools from all over the peninsula and will be facilitated by experienced educators from the New Straits Times NIE team.
Ali said it was a good way for children to gain knowledge of nutrition and improve their competence in English while enhancing their creative, communication and social skills.
Nestle is also sponsoring 150 schools nationwide with 120,000 copies of the NST and 30,000 copies of the Berita Harian for six months.
This is the second time the NST and Nestle are working together on the smart camp. In 2005, the project covered 35 schools and 5,250 Year Five pupils, with other pre-camp activities and contests for over 70,000 pupils from Year One to Six.
A readers’ contest will be held every Monday in the Life&Times section of the NST.
The best student entries stand a chance of winning up to RM300 and a Nestle breakfast cereals hamper, while 70 teachers will be exposed to educational workshops by facilitators of the NST-NIE team.
For more information, call Nestle at 1-800-88-3433 or visit its website at

IJN gets accreditation for quality in health care

NST: It may have been the premier hospital for heart problems, but the National Heart Institute (IJN) has just received accreditation from the Malaysian Society for Quality in Health (MSQH).
The accreditation, valid between Nov 30 last year and Dec 1, 2008, will make IJN the 68th of 125 government hospitals with the award up to Wednesday. Only 17 of the 219 private hospitals have been accorded accreditation.
Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad witnessed the presentation of the accreditation certificate to IJN Board chairman Tan Sri Mohamed Khatib Abdul Hamid by MSQH board director Datuk Dr V. Kulaveerasingam.
Dr Abdul Latiff said standards used were based on those of the International Society for Quality in Healthcare (ISQua) and ISQua Federation, a body overseeing the accreditation programme internationally.
Last year alone, IJN recorded 130,743 outpatients, an increase of seven per cent over the 122,346 in 2004.

RM177m aid for 92,494 heart patients

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The Government forked out RM177mil to pay for 92,494 heart patients who could not afford to pay for their treatment last year.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said the patients included those from the lower income group, and government servants and their immediate family members.
“My ministry either absorbed the full amount of treatment or the patients paid half,” he said at the presentation of a three-year accreditation status by the Malaysian Society for Quality in Health (MSQH) to the National Heart Institute (IJN) yesterday.
“This figure is expected to rise based on the increasing number of heart patients registered at IJN.
“In 2005, 130,743 people sought outpatient treatment at IJN, and this is a 7% increase over the 122,346 patients the year before.”

Commercial farm birds are safe to eat

Star: PETALING JAYA: Chickens sold in the markets are safe to eat because they come from commercial farms and the birds are free of the avian flu virus, said the Federation of Livestock Farmers Association Malaysia.
“We hope consumers understand that most of the infected chickens are either free-range or backyard birds and not those reared in commercial farms,” said the group's broiler unit chairman Yap Kim Hwah yesterday.
He said some commercial farms had their poultry culled because they were within the 1km radius of the areas where the H5N1 virus was detected.
“So far no cases of the virus have been detected in commercial chicken farms.”
Yap said the veterinary services department had been conducting random checks on chicken farms nationwide since bird flu surfaced in the country two years ago.
In affected states like Perak and Penang, chicken sales have dropped by 10% to 30%, he added.
Yap said the association had appealed to the Government to tighten rules for importing pets and to stop issuing permits to import birds.

Phase One Of H5N1 Monitoring Ends Today

TASEK GELUGOR, March 23 (Bernama) -- Phase One of the monitoring operation covering 10km radius of the areas where the H5N1 strain of the bird flu virus was detected, ended today.
A total of 44,688 birds of various species had been culled and 790 premises had been inspected, said Deputy Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Minister Datuk Mohd Shariff Omar.
Some 2,878 samples had been taken for analysis and the result had been negative, he told reporters after attending a briefing on the construction of a farm produce collection complex in Kampung Selamat here Thursday.
He also said Phase Two of the operation would begin this Saturday.
He said the ban on any movement, slaughter and storage of fowls within a 10km radius of the index would continue until the areas had been declared free of bird flu.
The culling operation and preventive steps would effectively contain the spread of the disease and the public should not worry, he said.

Bird Culling In Titi Gantung To Be Completed By Tonight

IPOH, March 23 (Bernama) -- More than 7,000 birds, almost 90 per cent of the birds within the 1 kilometer radius from the Titi Gantung Agriculture Complex, in Bota, were culled since Wednesday in efforts to contain the Bird Flu.
The State Agriculture, Agro Based Industry and Tourism Committee chairman Datuk Mohd Radzi Manan said the remaining birds in 12 villages and two housing estates within the radius would be culled by tonight.
Titi Gantung and Changkat Legong near Gopeng saw the culling of birds after the H5N1 virus that causes the flu was detected on Wednesday.
In Changkat Legong the culling operations involving 2,000 free-range chickens were completed last night.
Other than the free-range chickens, more than 3,000 broiler chicken, ducks, quail, geese, and turkey at the Titi Gantung Agriculture Institute were also culled.
The two other affected areas are Changkat Tualang and the Ecopark Garden in Bukit Merah Laketown Resort near Taiping where the culling operations were completed.
On more case was confirmed on Wednesday in Taman Panorama, Ipoh, when a carcass of a cattle egret was found but there was no culling conducted except for sampling within a 1km radius.
Kampung Changkat Legong is situated 2.5 kilometers from Changkat Tualang.
Mohd Radzi said the state Veterinary Services Department has been conducting sampling all over the state and information sessions are also being held with the cooperation Village Safety and Development Committee regarding the bird flu.
In the operations at Changkat Tualang and Bukit Merah last week, about 42,000 birds including more than 30,000 ducks, 10,000 broiler and free-range chickens and the 239 exotic birds at Taman Ecopark were culled.

Another Primary School Ordered Close, Bringing Total To 32

KUCHING, March 23 (Bernama) -- Another primary school in Bintulu has been ordered closed for two weeks after health teams confirmed eight suspected cases of the Hand, foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) during a screening exercise, Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan said Thursday.
Dr Chan, who is also Sarawak Disaster and Relief Management Committee chairman, said the latest closure brought to 32 the number of affected schools instructed to close by the State Health Department.
"However, the number of new reported HFMD cases has declined to 162 over the last 24 hours from 232 previously, bringing the total number of children infected to 6,044, since the outbreak was detected in Sibu last month," he said on the daily HFMD updates here.
In the 24 hours, Miri and Sarikei divisions had the highest number of new cases, with 26 each, followed by Sibu (34), Kuching (22), Mukah (14) and Bintulu (13).
Although 34 new admissions were reported in various hospitals throughout Sarawak, he said, no child had been reported critically ill or had been admitted to the intensive care unit.
The cumulative admissions so far were 975.
HFMD patients still in the ward had also dropped to 79 from 87 in the last 24 hours, he said.
Since last Thursday, the death toll had remained at eight, including two cases confirmed to be Enterovirus 71 (EV71) positive while the department would be conducting further tests on the remaining ones to determine the actual cause.

Contingency Plan Being Prepared In Case Bird Flu Becomes An Epidemic

PUTRAJAYA, March 23 (Bernama) -- The Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry and the Ministry of Health have decided to set up a Technical Sub-Committee to study and prepare an action plan in case the H5N1 virus or bird flu deteriorates into an epidemic.
Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the setting up of the sub-committee was proposed at the Joint-Committee meeting of the two ministries concerned to tackle the bird flu, today.
He said the sub-committee would endeavour to create a contingency action plan to face the situation if the H5N1 virus, which was the source of the bird flu, were to spread to more places in the country and resulting in an outbreak.
"The plan would encompass programmes and follow-up actions which would be implemented by both ministries to face the situation in case of an epidemic," he said.
He said this at a press conference after chairing a meeting of the Joint-Committee which was also attended by Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek, as co-chairman of the committee.
Muhyiddin said the plan also outlined measures which were more suitable and expeditious which were deemed necessary when carrying out clinical tests on samples of the virus in the event that there were many cases all over the place.
"We cannot predict (if) the disease will deteriorate into an epidemic. (That's the reason) we want to enhance all efforts in facing any eventuality in the future," he said.
He said the plan on follow-up actions would also touch on the problems of staff mobilisation, the need for equipment and other logistics as well as medical specialists and ways of overcoming them.
Muhyiddin said the Technical Sub-Committee would be given less than two weeks to come up with the preparatory action plan.

Selangor To Have Three Chicken Abattoirs

SHAH ALAM, March 23 (Bernama) -- Selangor will open three abattoirs for chickens sold in the state in efforts to keep a check on the diseases affecting poultry, said Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Mohamad Khir Toyo.
He said the abattoirs in Hulu Selangor, Kuala Selangor and Sepang would be built by the Selangor Islamic Religous Council with the poultry slaughtered there conforming to the halal pre-requisites.
The abattoirs using the latest technology would be operational within two years with the waste from the abattoirs treated before discarded, he said at the press conference after attending the People's Problem Inventory (IMR) with the Menteri Besar at the Wisma Majlis Bandaraya Shah Alam (MBSA) here, Thursday.
Dr Mohamad Khir said when the abattoirs are operational slaughtering poultry in markets would no longer be allowed.
Dr Khir said the move was similar to the centralised abattoir for pigs in Rawang implemented last year and all illegal pig slaughter house would be closed in stages.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

No More Slaughtering Poultry In Perak Markets, Says Tajol Rosli

BANDAR SERI ISKANDAR, March 22 (Bernama) -- Traders in Perak are given until the end of the month to stop slaughtering live poultry in the wet markets, said Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Tajol Rosli Ghazali.
He said traders would have to opt to the integrated slaughtering system to be implemented in all big towns.
He warned that the state government would not compromise on its stand and errant traders will have their licence suspended.
The move was part of the preventive steps in overcoming the bird flu that was detected in five locations in Perak since March 16, he told reporters after a meeting with the residents of Titi Gantung at the Titi Gantung Agriculture Complex, here Wednesday.
He said the traders who slaughter the birds in the markets also pollute the drains with the poultry blood that in turn causes foul smell and attracts flies.
"If the need arises, poultry traders should call for a meeting to establish a cooperative to undertake the slaughtering process...and also those who are involved in the vocation," he said.
Meanwhile, on the operations to cull birds infected by the H5N1 virus in Changkat Legong and Titi Gantung, the Menteri Besar said 70 percent or 5,223 of the birds in the area already culled with the remaining 3,000 within a 1 kilometer radius to be culled by tonight.
The Menteri Besar said the sampling had been intensified all over the state especially in areas frequented by migratory birds like in Kuala Gula and several swamps in the Perak Tengah and Kinta districts.
All index case areas were close to swamps and former mining areas frequented by migratory birds.
In the operation at two other affected areas - Changkat Tualang and Bukit Merah - more than 30,000 ducks, 10,000 broiler and free-range chickens and another 239 exotic birds at the Ecopark Garden were culled.