Saturday, December 12, 2009

11,000 waiting for kidney transplants

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: A total of 11,000 patients are still waiting for kidney transplants while 29 others need livers, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.
He said another eight patients needed heart transplant surgery while 12 others had to undergo lung transplants and heart and lung transplants for two other patients.
“Up until Friday (Dec 11), we obtained 36 cadavers, 32 kidneys, four livers, 23 pairs of corneas, 19 heart valves tissues, seven bones and three skin.
“However, the number of patients waiting for organ transplants are far more than what we have obtained,” he told reporters at a press conference after the launch of the 3rd Global Bio-Herbs Economic Forum here Saturday.
Last year, he said, 56 kidney and five liver transplant surgeries had been carried out but there was no transplant of heart and lung.
He said by the end of last year, the cumulative organ transplant operations were kidney (1,264), liver (86), heart (19), lung (three) and heart and lung (one).
“The number of pledges for organ donation for this year is 13,546 while the accumulated pledges since 1997 is 135,847.
“We need more people to come forward to make the pledge so that we can save more lives,” he said, adding that 45% of them were male.
Liow said his ministry would send a thank you note to the parents of a 17-year-old boy from Kampar who consented to donate their son’s organs, including the heart, after the teenager was declared brain-dead after a road accident.
“We are sad over his demise but we also want to express our gratitude to his parents for making the decision to donate his organs,” he said.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Asia’s first valve implant without surgery

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The National Heart Institute (IJN) achieved another milestone by performing the first heart valve implant in Asia without the need for open heart surgery.
The procedure has a 99% success rate.
Known as trans-catheter aortic valve implantation (Tavi), the procedure allows for problematic valves in the aorta to be replaced with an artificial one by using a catheter, a tube that is 6mm in diameter.
The tube is inserted either in the thigh or below the left collar bone and then slid through arteries to the heart.
“Patients, who have gone through Tavi, will be able to move around on the third day after the implantation but they will be required to lie down during the first 24 hours,” said IJN medical director Datuk Seri Dr Robaayah Zambahari during a press conference yesterday.
The procedure, which uses a device called CoreValve, causes less trauma to body tissues and enables a faster recovery compared to the conventional open heart surgery as only incisions are made at certain areas to insert the tube.
Dr Robaayah was part of the team of IJN consultants which performed the procedure on two patients on Nov 25; a 73-year-old man and a 77-year-old man, both of whom had severe narrowing of heart valves.
The third patient is National Laureate Datuk Shahnon Ahmad, 76, who was treated the next day.
Other team members were cardiologists Datuk Dr Rosli Mohd Ali, Dr Shaiful Azmi and cardiothoracic surgeons Datuk Dr Mohd Azhari Yakub, Dr Jeswant Dillon and anaesthesiologists Datuk Dr Mohamed Hassan Ariff and Dr Sharifah Suraya.
The procedure was assisted by Dr Ganesh Manoharan, a consultant interventional cardiologist from Ireland, who will oversee the operations of the next 12 to 15 patients currently on the waiting list.
The CoreValve device costs RM112,000 while another RM10,000 is needed for other operation costs.
Dr Robaayah hoped that the Health Ministry would support and subsidise the procedures for the public in future. The current ones were borne by the institute.
Dr Robaayah said there had yet to be any case of a patient rejecting the artificial valve, which is made out of a type of metal called Nitinol.
The procedure takes between 45 minutes and one-and-a-half hours.
“We took about two-and-a-half hours for the first patient because we were still learning about the procedure and wanted to be careful,” she said, adding that the method was only performed on high-risk patients such as the elderly.
Dr Ganesh said local anaesthesia was applied to the patients and they remained conscious during the procedure.
“It is not surprising to see patients smiling as we conduct the procedure on them,” he said.
Dr Ganesh said about 50 centres worldwide were using the technology, adding that it was suitable for Asians as their blood vessels were generally smaller.

Friday, December 04, 2009

90% don’t use condoms

Star: GEORGE TOWN: Some 90% of drug users do not use condoms and this is a source of worry because it can contribute to the rise of HIV/AIDS cases, said social activist Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir.
Marina, an Asia Pacific Leadership Forum on HIV/AIDS steering committee member, said drug users continued to neglect the use of condoms despite the contraceptives being distributed for free by some non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
“Condoms are 98% safe and it can present an affordable way to combat the spread of the disease,” she told reporters yesterday after the opening of the World HIV/AIDS Day national conference.
The two-day conference was launched by Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.
Marina said 24-hour convenience stores should be allowed to sell condoms off-the-shelf although some state governments were against it.
Malaysian AIDS Council vice-president Datuk Zaman Khan said the distribution of free condoms did not mean that NGOs were encouraging free sex.
In his speech, Liow said the country was on track towards achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goal of halting and reversing the spread of HIV by 2015.
He said the disease remained a potent threat because of the increasing infection through sex and more women were becoming infected.
Liow said the notification rate of HIV/AIDS in the country had continued to fall each year after it peaked at 6,978 cases or 28.5% per 100,000 population in 2002.
Last year, it was 13.3% per 100,000 population and this year indication shows that it may drop to 11% per 100,000.
“I am optimistic that the country can arrest the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015 based on current trends,” he said.

Brace for rise in H1N1 cases

Star: GEORGE TOWN: The recent increase of Influenza A(H1N1) cases in the northern hemisphere serves as a reminder for countries to be alert for a possible second wave of the flu.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said 95% of countries in the northern hemisphere had recorded a rise in new cases.
The ministry, he said, had stepped up efforts to ensure the second wave was kept at bay in Malaysia. He added that the country must remain vigilant as the outbreak was still at Level Six, the highest of the World Health Organisation’s pandemic alert scale.
‘‘We cannot take this lightly although the H1N1 outbreak has stabilised in the country.
“We must ensure, where possible, that a second wave does not hit us,” he told reporters yesterday after launching the World HIV/AIDS Day national conference.
As of yesterday, the death toll still stood at 77 out of 12,210 confirmed cases while four patients remained in critical condition. For the week ended on Nov 28, a total of 589 cases were reported for flu-like illnesses, of which 573 have been discharged, said Liow.
To prepare for the second wave, he said the ministry had vaccinated 6,617 frontliners.
He said the ministry had also upgraded its surveillance system by improving early detection in all states including having the main command centre operating around-the-clock, and stock-piling anti-viral drugs at its pharmacies.
He advised people, especially those travelling during the school holidays, to take extra precautions. Meanwhile, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said 10 patients tested positive for the A(H1N1) flu last week.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

WHO: More women getting HIV from their husbands

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: About 30% of all new HIV cases in Malaysia are women, a 400% increase compared with five years ago.
“It is an alarming figure. This finding has changed the previous perception that homosexuals and drug users are more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS.
“It has brought a new set of issues that we need to deal with and it is becoming more complex now,” said the United Nations Resident Coor­dinator Kamal Malhotra at the launch of The Red Carnival in conjunction with World AIDS Day at Sungei Wang Plaza yesterday.
Organised by PT Foundation for the 11th year, the two-day event has brought people from all walks of life especially youths in efforts to boost awareness on HIV/AIDS.
The findings, revealed by a World Health Organisation study on women’s health around the world last month, necessitated a new approach in dealing with HIV/AIDS.
“It should be dealt with as more than a health issue, but with the religious and legal aspects as well,” he said.
As of today, there are 33.4 million people around the world who are infected and living with HIV.
There were nearly three million new cases last year.
In Malaysia, 85,000 people have been infected with the disease, with about 15 new cases daily.
Up to June, a total of 1,497 people were infected.
A total of 315 Malaysians have died from AIDS.
PT Foundation chairman Hisham Hussein said many women and children had been infected with HIV/AIDS in the last few years.
He said most of these women did not see themselves as the vulnerable group that could get infected.
“They believe that they would not get infected because they are not drug users nor do they have multiple sexual partners.
“Yet they get it from their husband,” he said.
Hisham had urged the public to change their attitude about HIV/AIDS and to reduce stigma and discrimination against those who are infected with the ailment.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Health Ministry issues nationwide dengue alert

Star: PETALING JAYA: The Health Ministry has announced a nationwide dengue alert following an increase of 99 reported dengue cases within a week with two deaths in Malacca and one in Penang.
Deputy health director-general Datuk Dr Hasan Abdul Rahman said that 819 cases were reported last week (Nov 15 to 21) compared with 720 the week before (Nov 8 to 14).
“We have issued a dengue alert to state health directors and doctors to keep a look out for the cases,” he said.
The total number of reported cases for this year until last week was 36,514 with 78 deaths compared with 41,034 and 90 deaths last year.
Dr Hasan said if the public did not take the necessary action to remove aedes breeding sites, the number of cases could double next month.
Explaning that the drastic increase in dengue cases was due to the rainy season, he said: “Despite our awareness programme, the response from the public has not been encouraging.”
Speaking at a dialogue session on 1Malaysia Fight Against Dengue yesterday, Dr Hasan said the ministry had carried out surveys and found that people were aware of where and how aedes breeds in the house and outside but most of them neglected to check on those areas.
“They tend to think that it’s the Government’s responsibility, but we need cooperation from the people,” he said.
In the last three months, Sarawak recorded the highest number of increase with 331 cases last week, making it a total of 2,847 cases this year.
In total, Selangor recorded the highest number of cases in the country at 16,984.
Dr Hasan said that the World Health Organisation (WHO) had also placed the country on avian influenza alert following some reported cases in neighbouring countries.
There were no cases recorded in Malaysia and the Veterinary Services Department was monitoring the situation throughout the country while the ministry exchanged information with other countries in Asean as well as with the WHO.
Universiti Malaya medical microbiology department professor Dr S. Shamala Devi, who also spoke at the dialogue, said that people might get both Influenza A(H1N1) and avian influenza at the same time if their immune system was weakened.

In Kota Kinabalu, Deputy Health Minister Datuk Rosnah Abdul Rashid Shirlin said there were 199 cholera cases as of yesterday in the two affected states – Terengganu (185) and Kelantan (14).
She said health officials were now using different antibiotics to treat patients following the detection of a new strain of cholera in Thailand.
“The two states are close to Thailand. We believe that it is due to water contamination,” she said, adding that the 17 cholera cases detected in Sabah earlier this month was due to the “usual” strain found in the country.
Rosnah said that the cholera patients in Terengganu and Kelantan were not from relief centres but other areas.
“Our officers are closely monitoring the health situation at the flood relief centres,” she said.
The first case of cholera was detected in Terengganu earlier this month.
One person has died from it.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Ensuring cheaper private healthcare

Star: PUTRAJAYA: The public can soon seek medical treatment at private clinics and not worry too much about high costs.
This is because the Government is considering paying a portion of the bill for treatment at private clinics under a proposed healthcare reform plan which is expected to be ready next year.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the details and quantum of payment have not been worked out but the plan would ensure that the public could get quality medical service at their convenience.
“The plan is to pay a portion of the bill but there is a cap to the amount,” he told reporters yesterday after a courtesy call from World Health Organisation (WHO) director-general Dr Margaret Chan and Chinese deputy health minister Wang Guoqiang at his office here,
“The public will pay the remaining amount,” said Liow, adding that WHO had offered their expertise and advice.
Liow said the proposed healthcare reform would also see the Government introducing the national health financing scheme.
He said the ministry was studying several models implemented in other countries such as paying medical bills through deduction from the Employees Provident Fund or a tri-parte payment scheme were medical cost would be borne by the patient, his employer and the government.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Improve quality of care for post-partum period, docs urged

Star: PETALING JAYA: Doctors need to improve the quality of care for the post-partum period, said Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican.
He said 60% of the deaths occurred during post-natal period and the rate was higher among women over 40 and those who had given birth more than five times, he said.
“Patient factors such as unbooked cases (where mothers did not receive antenatal care and did not register with a health facility for child delivery) and non-compliance to doctors’ advice, admission and therapy were identified as contributory factors to maternal deaths.”
Common remediable clinical factors included failure in communication and lack of technical knowledge and skill that resulted in failure to recognise early warnings, he added.
Dr Ismail said for every maternal death there were many “near misses” and this might provide doctors with more information on areas for improvement than mortality figures.
The implementation of inquiry recommendations and guidelines had shown to improve maternal health policies, procedures and practices and save the lives of mothers and their babies, he said.
He pointed out there was a steep rise in Caesarean section rates over the world with patients not fully understanding the risks involved. Since they might suffer complicated subsequent operative procedures, he urged senior doctors to be more actively involved in the management of high risk cases.
He added that the risks involved must be discussed and informed consent obtained and documented.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Health Ministry to take over new centre

Star: KUCHING: The Federal Government has agreed to take over the newly completed Sarawak International Medical Centre (SIMC) in Samarahan, near here.
Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan Hong Nam said the Health Ministry was now evaluating the centre’s buildings and facilities.
“An occupation permit has been obtained, and all the essential facilities are available to start operations.
“I will ensure that the Health Ministry will be able to operate the SIMC as a general hospital for the benefit of the people within the shortest possible time,” he added.

New strain of cholera found

Star: PUTRAJAYA: Those in Terengannu suffering from diarrhoea or vomiting should seek immediate medical attention, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.
This, he added, was because of the outbreak in the state of a new strain of cholera that has already caused one death.
He said severe dehydration from vomiting or diarrhoea would affect vital organs, especially the kidneys and if help was not sought quickly enough, the patient could die from organ failure.
“The current outbreak in Terengganu is caused by a new strain that is resistant to the antibiotics usually used to treat cholera.
“Although we can still treat it, we want those suffering from such symptoms to go to the nearest medical facility quickly to ensure early diagnosis,” Liow told a press conference after attending the National Food Safety and Dietary Council meeting and launching the Infants and Children’s feeding guidelines here yesterday.
Liow said there have been 174 confirmed cholera cases in the state since the outbreak on Nov 11 and it was suspected to have been due to food, especially ice-cubes, that was not hygienically prepared.
He said all those confirmed suffering from cholera were warded in hospitals and only allowed to return home if there was no trace of the bacteria in their faeces for three consecutive days. Hospitals in the state have so far discharged 33 of the patients.
“We have already dispatched a surveillance team to start conducting checks to identify the source of the problem and expect it to complete the task soon.
“We want to advise the people to observe good hygiene in food preparation, eat cooked food and avoid eating in shops where the cleanliness is questionable,” he said.
Liow also said the outbreak in Terengganu was not caused by the recent floods and did not involve any of those placed in various flood relief centres.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Go for regular dental check-ups, public urged

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Only six per cent of the 28 million population in Malaysia seek dental treatment and services with half of them being schoolchildren.
Health Ministry’s oral health director Datin Dr Norain Abu Talib said this was because Malaysians prefer to seek treatment when there was a pressing need and not as a preventive measure.
“It is common for Malaysians to visit the dentist when they have toothache. If they don’t have toothache, they don’t think they have any dental problems,” she said.
Dr Norain said this at a press conference after officiating at the 20th Scientific Convention and Trade Exhibition and the 41st Annual General Meeting of the Malaysian Private Dental Practitioners’ Association here yesterday.
“Six per cent is a very low number and more than half of that percentage is actually schoolchildren,” she said.
Although there was a shortage of dentists, she said the ministry was optimistic in resolving the problem.
Currently, the ratio is one dentist to every 7,800 Malaysians.
“We have targeted to achieve a ratio of one dentist to every 4,000 Malaysians by 2020 but with the 11 dentistry schools nationwide, we believe we can achieve the figure two years earlier than expected.”

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Diabetes threat bigger than H1N1

Star: PETALING JAYA: The country is heading towards becoming a “sick nation” as far as diabetes is concerned, a health expert has cautioned.
“The (diabetes) situation is getting worse. It could get worse than H1N1 or AIDS if the people don’t do something about their health,” Malaysian Dia­betes Association president Prof Dr Ikram Shah Ismail said.
He said a National Health and Morbidity Survey in 2006 showed a prevalence rate of 14.9% for those aged above 30, with a third of Malay­sians with diabetes not being aware of it.
The survey also estimated that about 70% of diabetics in the country had poor control over the disease.
About 95% to 98% of those affected have Type 2 diabetes, which is non-insulin dependent.
Dr Ikram said neglecting medication or continuing to indulge in sweet food like ice cream contributed to poor control of diabetes.
“And there are those who do not see the doctor regularly, so they don’t know what their control is like. The problem with diabetes is that those with a HbA1c reading of more than 10 do not show symptoms. They feel normal even if their blood glucose is high,” he added.
The ideal target for good control of diabetes is having a HbA1c (a blood test that provides the average of blood sugar control over a three-month period) reading of 6.5% or lower.
He said Malaysians were also getting diabetes at an earlier age.
“They are not healthy because they are not eating healthy food or exercising. Previously, although they had the genes, they did not get diabetes until they were much older,” he added.
Consultant endocrinologist Prof Datuk Dr Khalid Abdul Kadir, who is a professor of medicine at Monash University Malaysia, said the country’s increased prevalence rate was similar to that in Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia.
He added the effects of the Govern­ment’s intervention programmes to promote a healthy lifestyle had not been evident.
Dr Khalid and a team of researchers are studying whether stress in­c­reases the risk of humans developing diabetes.
Tests conducted on rats by the team determined stress as a risk factor.
In Putrajaya, Dharminder Singh reported that Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the National Strategic Plan would be launched early next year to combat the rising number of cases of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular problems.
The plan was formulated after the National Health and Morbidity Sur­vey reported the percentage of obese Malaysians aged 18 and above had risen from 4.4% in 1996 to 14% just 10 years later while cases of diabetes among those aged 30 and above rose from 8.3% to over 14% during the same period.
He added that obesity was a worrying trend because it increased health risks.
Liow spoke to reporters after launching the “1Malaysia Brings Diabetes To Light Campaign” yesterday.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

200,000 A(H1N1) vaccine doses for high-risk group

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: A total of 200,000 influenza A(H1N1) vaccine doses will be available for the high-risk groups, including pregnant women and those with chronic diseases by January.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the country had ordered a total of 400,000 influenza A (H1N1) vaccines, half of which would first be administered to frontliners like healthcare workers and civil servants.
“We are now identifying those in the high-risk groups and we should be able to provide them with the injection by January next year,” he told reporters here on Saturday after attending the Sara Lee-Tesco Anti-Aedes Campaign here.
He said research was being carried out now to incorporate the A(H1N1) vaccine into the seasonal flu vaccine.
“This kind of vaccine will give protection to all sorts of flu, including the H1N1 virus,” he said.
However, Liow said he was unsure when such vaccine would be available in the market as the research was still ongoing.
“Hopefully, we will get it by next year,” he said.

On dengue fever, Liow said there were 34,975 such cases with 75 deaths as of last Saturday.
“There is a drop of 10% in the number of such cases compared to 38,995 cases with 84 deaths during the same period last year,” he said.
He said Selangor recorded the highest number of dengue cases with 47% of 16,591 cases happened in the state.
“Currently, there are nine dengue hotspots in Selangor, of which two are in the Hulu Langat district,” he said.
He said some of these areas had been having the epidemic for more than two months and most of the breeding grounds were found at empty houses or students’ accommodation.
Liow said as part of the ministry’s effort to eliminate Aedes mosquitoes, it had launched the Anti-Aedes campaign to urge the public to spend at least 10 minutes a week to check their house and eradicate Aedes breeding.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Too few cadavers for organ harvesting, says Ismail

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The cadaveric donation rate in Malaysia is 0.97 to every one million of the population, said Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican.
“At this rate, in addition to the increase of patients with chronic diseases, the waiting period for donated organs has become too long.
“Furthermore, Malaysia is far behind in its organ donation rate at 0.97 as compared to developed countries such as Spain which has a rate of 34.3 donors per one million citizens and Singapore with 5.9,” he added.
“What’s more saddening is, there are patients who could not be saved as they had succumbed to their diseases while on the waiting list,” he said after opening the new National Transplant Resource Centre office in Wisma Sejarah at Jalan Tun Razak yesterday.
Dr Ismail said the ministry was taking steps to improve on the matter.
The centre will have 15 full-time ministry officers to help manage the service.
Previously, the centre operated at the main lobby of the Kuala Lumpur Hospital with only one officer in charge.
The centre was launched in 1997 to spread correct information and increase awareness on organ donation and transplantation in Malaysia.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Brace for new wave of H1N1

Star: PUTRAJAYA: The country should brace itself for a possible second wave of Influenza A(H1N1), after reports of the disease resurfacing in the Northern Hemisphere and an alert announced by the United States.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the surveillance teams set up when the first A(H1N1) cases appeared in Malaysia were still in place and were continuing to detect and monitor all cases of the flu.
He said thermal scanners at all entry points into the country were still operating, adding that he was confident the second wave would be quickly detected and control measures put in place if it were to hit the country.
Liow was speaking at a press conference after launching his ministry’s Innovation Day celebrations here yesterday.
However, the minister said the spread of the A(H1N1) virus has slowed tremendously over the last few months, from 400 to 500 cases a day to just between 20 and 30 cases a day now.
On the 1Malaysia Community Clinics announced by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak during his 2010 budget speech, Liow said the ministry had already identified several locations for the 50 clinics to be opened nationwide in January next year.
He said the clinics would be run by medical assistants and offer outpatient services like dressings for wounds as well treatment for simple colds, coughs and headaches.
“There will be visiting doctors making rounds at the clinics and if the patients need more serious attention when the doctors are not around, they will be referred to the nearest private clinic,” he said.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Bowel cancer commonest in Malaysian men

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Bowel cancer is the most common form of cancer in Malaysian men, and the third commonest in women after breast and cervical cancers.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the increasing rate of large bowel cancer among Malaysians was due to people’s affluent and sedentary lifestyles and the lack of dietary fibres and physical activity.
He said other important risk factors of large bowel cancer included chronic inflammatory bowel disease, intestinal polyps and strong family history.
“About 13.8 per 100,000 Malaysians are likely to come down with large bowel cancer each year.
“This means that we can expect close to 3,900 cases of large bowel cancer each year from the country’s population of 28 million,” he told reporters after opening the Gastro-intestinal and Liver Diseases Symposium at Selayang Hospital near here yesterday.
He said 14.5% of all cancers reported among men from 2003 to 2005 were large bowel cancer while there were 9.9% reported cases among Malaysian women.
Among the reported cases, Chinese appeared to have the highest incidence of the disease, at 28.8 per 100,000 Malaysians, followed by Indians (9.9%) and Malays (7.1%), Liow said.
“Surgery remains the mainstay of treatment although there has been tremendous progress in terms of chemotherapy,” he added.
“Malaysians are advised to consume more vegetables and fruits in their diet and to be more active physically,” he said.
Currently, there are 18 gastroenterologists in 13 Health Ministry hospitals nationwide and another 13 doctors undergoing training in gastroenterology.
“Under the 10th Malaysian Plan, if the financial situation allows, we will be in a good position to strengthen our existing services and expand to the state hospitals like in Kangar, Penang, Kuantan and Kuching,” Liow said.
On Influenza A(H1N1), he said there were 20 to 30 cases now with five patients in the intensive care unit.
“It is still a serious issue,” he said, adding that the first batch of vaccine would arrive soon.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A(H1N1): Malaysia to get 78,000 doses of vaccine soon

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia will receive 78,000 doses of the of the 400,000 doses of anti-H1N1 vaccine ordered from Britain for frontliners in healthcare and high-risk group end of this month, Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said Monday.
The balance vaccine would be received by January next year, he added.
He said although the spread of the disease in the country was still under control, the situation should not be taken lightly with the United States President, Barack Obama, having declared H1N1 a national emergency in the America two days ago.
Liow said Malaysia should be prepared to face the possibility of a second wave of the H1N1, expected end of this year.
"Of course the number of H1N1 patients warded in ICU is decreasing and the death caused by the pandemic is still at 77, but this is not the end, we have to be more cautious and alert to face a second wave of H1N1 which is expected at the end of this year," he told reporters after opening a seminar on "Gastrointestinal and Liver Diseases" at Selayang Hospital.
He also said the spread of the virus was still active in the country and advised the public to take the necessary precautions.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Govt hospitals in three states to use complementary treatment

Star: KUCHING: Treatment using traditional and complementary medicine will be available at government hospitals in Sabah, Sarawak and Terengganu soon.
This follows the Health Ministry’s decision to extend the integrative medicine programme to the three states.
The ministry’s Traditional and Complementary Medicine division senior officer Jaafar Lassa said the extension to one hospital each in the three states was due to an overwhelming response to the programme that was launched three years ago.
“There is sufficient evidence to suggest that traditional and complementary medicine is safe, and able to benefit patients,” he said at the two-day inaugural Malaysia International Medicine Congress which ended, here, yesterday.
“Such medicine has long had a profound impact on human medical history.”
More than 500 local and foreign participants attended the event organised by the Chung Hua Tradi-tional Chinese Medicine Study and Research Society of Malaysia.
Traditional and complementary medicine treatment is now available at the Kepala Batas Hospital in Butterworth, Penang, Johor’s Sultan Ismail Hospital and the Putrajaya Hospital.
Jaafar said the traditional and complementary medicine field should be given recognition and support to enable it to develop and expand, and offer holistic therapy.
He said the ministry had drafted a list of standards and criteria to promote education and training in the field.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

RM14mil for A(H1N1) vaccine

Star: PETALING JAYA: The Health Ministry is spending RM14mil to purchase 400,000 doses of influenza A(H1N1) vaccine.
The first batch of 40,000 doses would arrive by the end of this month, said minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.
Speaking to reporters after opening GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK) Global IT Centre yesterday, he said the ministry decided to purchase the vaccine from GSK as the company could meet the earliest delivery time.
Some firms could only provide the vaccine in mid-2010, he said, adding that the ministry had yet to fix the selling price per dose for the vaccine.
He had also noted previously that the vaccine would be for frontliners first such as health workers, the police and immigration staff.
Liow stressed that the public must take precautionary measures although H1N1 cases were on the decline and no deaths had been reported since Sept 16. The outbreak, he said, was still at Level 6.
Yesterday, 152 patients with influenza-like illness (ILI) were admitted nationwide while 146 people had been discharged.
Out of the 666 cases in hospital, only 4% or 27 are confirmed H1N1 cases.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Ministry restricts sale of imported dried fruits due to high lead content

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The sale of 18 types of dried plum and prune from China, Taiwan and other Asian countries has been restricted by the Health Ministry after high degrees of lead was detected.
The foodstuff - known as asam or jeruk in Malay and kiam sui tee (salty, sour and sweet) in Hokkien which are immensely popular as tidbits among Malaysians - has been put on Level 5 alert by the ministry’s Food Safety and Quality Division under its Food Information System of Malaysia.
This means that the division would hold the products for testing and would only release them for sale if they pass the test.
The highest alert level of 6 involves an immediate rejection of a product.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said for the moment, dried fruit products by other manufacturers and distributors would be permitted to be sold locally.
“If these 18 products are found in the local market, they will be seized and sampled for lead analysis,” he told reporters after launching the ministry’s management conference here yesterday.
Lead, in cumulative amounts over time, causes nervous system disorders and distorts brain development, especially in children.
Liow said the monitoring began following a US Food and Drug Administration report on Oct 1 that alerted consumers over the dried fruit sold by the 15 manufacturers due to lead contamination.
“If a product by a manufacturer or distributor is found to contain more than the permitted two parts per million (ppm), legal action will be taken under the Food Regulations 1985,” Liow said.
The 18 products apparently had lead levels of up to 30 ppm.
Asked if any of the 18 products were being sold locally, the minister said the division was checking on this.
Meanwhile, Liow announced that former International Trade and Industry Ministry deputy secretary-general Datuk Ooi Say Chuan had been appointed Malaysian Health Tourism Council chief executive officer.
He said the council, to be launched in December by the Prime Minister, would focus on consolidating private and Government efforts in promoting Malaysia as a health tourism destination.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Cervical cancer vaccination: Up to parents

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Parents will be given a choice to allow their daughters to be given anti-cervical cancer vaccination that will begin next year for secondary schools girls aged 13.
Those who agree need to sign a letter of consent, said Education director-general Tan Sri Alimuddin Mohd Dom when contacted regarding the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccination programme that was announced by Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai recently.
Datuk Dr Hasan Abdul Rahman, director of the disease control division at the Health Ministry, comfirmed that vaccination will only be given after getting the consent of parents.
The move is to contain cervical cancer that is the second most common cancer among women in Malaysia, after breast cancer, with 1,500 new cases each year.
“The ministry is still waiting for further directives from the Health Ministry regarding the vaccinations. We are ready to cooperate with the Health Ministry in implementation,” Alimuddin said.
Alimuddin said the ministry had not received any complaint or objection from any quarter regarding the Health Ministry’s suggestion.
“From feedback we have received many Parent-Teacher Associations and parents agree with the vaccination, and we believe the Health Ministry will study the best medicine available before implementation,” he said. Honorary advisor to the National Cancer Society Malaysia (NCSM) Datuk Zuraidah Atan supports the programme as a preventive measure.
“However, the decision by the schools to implement the vaccination programme depends on the parents. If they are aware of the importance of the vaccination as protection for their children, they should continue with it,” she said.
“For NCSM, we support fully the Health Ministry’s action to have the vaccination programme at 13 years of age. I’m sure the ministry had thought of the process before intending to implement it and the programme is really good, especially for rural students, who mostly cannot afford it,” she said.
Dr Hasan said that the decision to introduce the HPV Vaccination Programme for girls as young as 13 years old was made as that age group produced better immune response compared with those in older age groups.
At that age the girls are considered to be still naive to the HPV infection and are free from the disease, he said.
He said the Health Ministry has also had “a secondary prevention programme” since 1969, the PAP Smear Screening Programme, to help detect cancer, but the response has not been satisfactory.
“The acceptance rate is however not very encouraging as shown by the National Health Morbidity Survey III (2006) which indicates that only 43.3% of women aged 18 and above ever had a PAP Smear.
“The Penang Cancer Registry Report 2004 has also reported that 75% of cervical cancer cases are detected at late stages,” he said.
He said based on research done by Prof S. AlJunid of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, results showed that prevention of cervical cancer by vaccination was cost effective.
It was estimated that the cost of three vaccination doses was RM400 compared with RM235,000 for a lifetime of treatment for cervical cancer.
“Thus it would cost approximately RM360mil to treat 1,500 newly diagnosed cervical cancer cases every year,” said Dr Hasan.
Dr Hasan said many factors contributed to the onset of cervical cancer, usually closely related to HPV infection, and the risk of getting infected got higher with increased sexual activity.
He said the impact from HPV vaccination can only be seen in the long run, between 15 and 20 years, as benefits from the vaccination will reduce any side effects as well as prevent premature deaths among women who were in their productive years.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated the 13 types of HPV could trigger cervical cancer with HPV types 16 and 18 causing 70% of cases.
Dr Hasan said the estimate was consistent with the situation in Malaysia where 74% of cases were caused by those two types of HPV.
On the death of a teenaged girl in Britain after being vaccinated, Dr Hasan said: “There is no increase in the rate of the documented adverse events reported due to HPV vaccine.
“There was also no convincing evidence between HPV vaccination and the deaths reported,” he said.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

PD Hospital to offer TCM services soon

Star: PORT DICKSON: The Port Dickson Hospital will be the country’s fourth to offer traditional complementary medicine (TCM) services, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.
“The unit will be set up soon. In fact, I will be visiting the hospital on Friday, and I will be able to tell you more in detail,” he said when met at the MCA operations centre here yesterday.
Liow said the ministry will also help train more practitioners in TCM, adding that he was glad to note that the Higher Education Ministry had given approval to three local universities to offer TCM diploma and degree programmes.
Asked if he was confident that the Chinese would support Barisan Nasional in Sunday’s Bagan Pinang by-election, Liow said recent trends suggested so.
“The party has put me in charge of the Teluk Kemang area where there are some 752 Chinese voters. From my conversations with them, I am confident they are supportive of Barisan,” he said.
Liow said the party has been getting plenty of support from young voters, adding that this was made possible by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s government giving priority to the needs of the rakyat.
On issues raised by the people, Liow said these centred mostly around the need for better basic amenities and infrastructure.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Health warning on traditional medicine capsule

Star: PUTRAJAYA: The Health Ministry has advised the public against buying and using Senna Plus Capsule 400mg after the Drug Control Authority (DCA) cancelled the registration of the traditional product.
The DCA said the capsule (labelled MAL06100616TC) contains a scheduled poison.
The ministry’s Pharmacy Services senior director Eisah Abdul Rahman said the DCA had cancelled the registration of the product following the detection of the scheduled poison Sibutramine, which is not allowed for use in traditional products.
The product registration holder for the Senna Plus Capsule 400mg is Winson Health Product Marketing and the manufacturer is TST Packaging Sdn Bhd, she said.
She said there were certain products containing Sibutramine that were registered with the DCA but these had been evaluated for their safety, efficacy and quality.
Furthermore, those products can only be supplied by doctors or obtained from pharmacies with a prescription.
“The public should not use traditional products containing the scheduled poison without consulting a doctor because its use without proper diagnosis and monitoring could cause serious adverse events such as high-blood pressure and other cardio-vascular effects.
“The products can have detrimental effects on consumers in the high-risk category,” she said in a statement issued Tuesday.
Eisah said the ministry was also calling on anyone possessing the product to immediately cease its sale, distribution or use.
She said possession for sale of the product was an offence under the Controlled Drugs and Cosmetics Regulations 1984, which carries a fine of up to RM25,000, three years’ jail or both for the first offence, and a fine of up to RM50,000, five years’ jail or both for subsequent offences.
Companies face a fine of up to RM50,000 for the first offence and a maximum fine of RM100,000 for subsequent offences, she said.

No evidence to back LBA’s effectiveness, says Health D-G

Star: PETALING JAYA: The public has been urged not to be easily duped by those who make claims about live blood analysis (LBA) test and other non-evidence based therapies not endorsed by the Health Ministry.
Ministry director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said in a press statement said although the test itself appeared harmless, the Ministry was very concerned about the implications of managing a patient based solely on LBA findings as it may be detrimental to one’s health.
His statement was in response to Monday’s Starprobe report on LBA scams
The LBA, also called nutritional blood analysis or live cell analysis, is a test where practitioners claim they could diagnose a host of illnesses including vitamin deficiencies, infections and even cancer by observing the abnormalities in a drop of blood.
They then proceed to persuade customers to buy nutritional supplements or undergo alternative therapies.
“Live blood analysis is not a valid test as there is no scientific evidence to support the claims made,” he said.
On whether an LBA test can be considered valid when a medical doctor performs it, Dr Ismail said: “There is no scientific basis for the technique and hence even if it is carried out by a medical doctor it is still not valid. No doctor should carry out such a test.”
He said the Ministry’s health technology assessment unit had completed its assessment on LBA and found no evidence to support its effectiveness.
“Furthermore, some evidence has shown that the LBA lacked diagnostic accuracy and reliability,” he said.
Dr Ismail also said that the ministry had received some complaints about the test from patients and medical doctors and was investigating the matter.
He noted that LBA tests were mostly carried out by practitioners of traditional and complementary medicine, especially those who practised naturopathy.
He said that the ministry’s traditional and complementary medicine division and medical practice division had inspected a naturopathy practitioner’s premises in July and advised him against performing LBA tests.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Health Ministry awaits report from British govt

Star: BENTONG: The public should not jump into conclusions over the death of a girl in Britain after she was vaccinated against cervical cancer.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said Malaysian authorities were awaiting feedback from the British government and other parties, including the pharmaceutical company which produced the vaccine.
“We want to look at the report first to find out the cause of the girl’s death.
“We cannot say that the girl’s death was caused by the vaccination process,” he said, adding that the ministry would carry out its planned vaccination programmed against cervical cancer through strict and controlled measures.
Liow said the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination has been carried out in many countries and proven to be very effective in preventing cervical cancer.
“The vaccine is safe and, according to our knowledge, only a very small percentage of one million people who undergo vaccination suffer minute side effects,” he said, after launching The Star SPM Workshop Series 2009 here yesterday.
The British girl reportedly fell ill after receiving the vaccine at her school in Coventry.
Health authorities there said no link could be made between the death and the vaccine until a post-mortem was conducted.
The ministry recently announced that the Government would offer the vaccination to girls aged 12 to 13 to prevent cervical cancer, the second most common cancer among women in Malaysia.
In Putrajaya, disease control division director Datuk Dr Hasan Abdul Rahman said the ministry’s decision to introduce the vaccination to girls in this age group was because they produced better immune response compared than older girls, and assumed to be free of the HPV infection.
“Nevertheless, the vaccination will be administered only with written consent from the parents,” he said yesterday.
On influenza A(H1N1), Liow said no new deaths were reported yesterday, adding that fatalities from the virus remained at 77.
He said 18 people were still being treated at the intensive care units.
In Kuala Lumpur, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Mohd Ismail Merican reminded people that the spread of the virus was still prevalent, although there was a reduction of cases recently.

More Malaysians below 40 at risk of heart disease

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: More young Malaysians below 40 are at risk of getting heart attacks due to poor diet and an unhealthy lifestyle, according to Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Medical Centre cardiology unit head Assoc Prof Dr Oteh Maskon.
He attributed this to the craving for teh tarik, roti canai, nasi lemak, smoking, and lack of exercise.
“They are at risk of obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes which could lead to heart ailments”, he told reporters after attending a public forum on heart disease at the centre here today.
Dr Oteh said 5% of the 450 patients admitted to the centre for the past one year was below 40 and most of them were diagnosed with high blood and diabetes.
He said the youngest heart patient at the centre was a 23-year-old male with metabolic syndrome and a family history of heart disease while a simple heart surgery was conducted on a 29-year-old male.
“We also had a 38-year-old female with three arteries blockages and who was also a diabetic. This is shocking as women are hardly known to have heart disease at that age,” he said.
He said family history of heart disease accounted for 10% of heart patients admitted to the medical centre.
“A healthy lifestyle and intake of a balance diet must start at a young age. Avoid smoking and exercise regularly.
“Go for periodical medical checkups so that early treatment can be administered if you are diagnosed with heart problems,” he said, adding that a number of sudden deaths occurred in heart patients before they could be given initial treatment.
Opened by the centre’s dean and director Prof Datuk Dr Lokman Saim, the forum was held in conjunction with the 12th Malaysian Association for Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery Conference Malaysia.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Better treatment for A(H1N1) patients considered

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Improved methods against the A(H1N1) virus, particularly those applied successfully by other countries, would be used to treat patients here.
Mainland China and Hong Kong, for instance, were using serum or plasma from patients who recovered from the infection on patients in the intensive care unit (ICU), Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said.
“We will look at the methods used by other countries and upgrade our treatment methods,” he said here yesterday.
Currently the ministry uses anti-virals and immunoglobin to treat the influenza patients.
Liow had just returned from the World Health Organisation Western Pacific regional meeting where various countries shared their views on influenza A(H1N1) treatment.
At the meeting, WHO officials also alerted participants to a second wave of the pandemic that was likely to hit the world and reminded people to be vigilant.
On some studies by Canadian scientists that seasonal flu shots might increase the risk of catching influenza A(H1N1), Liow said it was just a preliminary study and the ministry would monitor the situation.
As of yesterday, there were no deaths from influenza A(H1N1) in Malaysia and the totoal number of fatalities remained at 77.
Liow said there were no new admissions to intensive care units while four cases were discharged yesterday.
There were 135 new cases with influenza-like illness (ILI) warded in hospitals nationwide while 108 were discharged, leaving the total at 704.
Of the total ILI patients still under treatment, 184 or 26% were confirmed H1N1 cases.
The latest information on H1N1 infection can be obtained by calling the hotline 03-88810200 or 03-88810300 from 8am to 5pm, e-mail at and on the ministry’s website at
In MALACCA, Liow said the decision by WHO to set up its first regional centre in Cyberjaya was a recognition of the country’s role in the global health arena.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Cervical cancer vaccinations for all girls

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry will provide annual HPV vaccination against cervical or cervix cancer to all 300,000 13-year-old girls in Malaysia beginning next year.
The vaccinations will cost the Government RM150mil annually, Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said on Friday.
In July, Liow said his ministry was conducting a preliminary study on the impact of providing HPV (Human Papillomavirus Vaccine) for 12-13-year-old girls, as well as the economic and financial constraint on the Government.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the HPV could help to reduce the incidence of cervical cancer by at least 70%.
Cervical cancer was the second most common cancer among women in Malaysia after breast cancer, Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun said in July.
Each day, an average of four women are diagnosed with it.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Death rate within ‘normal range’

Star: PUTRAJAYA: The death rate due to Influenza A(H1N1) in the country is within a normal range, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said a WHO team that was in Malaysia recently also praised the country’s efficiency in detecting and treating influenza cases.
As of yesterday, the death toll from the flu remained at 73 with no new deaths reported for six consecutive days.
“Nevertheless, we will not let our guard down and the public should also not do so, particularly with Hari Raya Aidilfitri around the corner when people will be travelling and congregating to celebrate,” he said after witnessing the signing of the sales and purchase agreement for the Sabah Medical Centre building yesterday.
Liow said the WHO team, here to look into the mortality rate involving the disease, had deduced that the surveillance system set up by the ministry was “sensitive” and capable of detecting cases.
The team, he said, also noted that the infection rate in the country was declining.
“I presented the team’s observation, especially on how fast we are at treating those with ILI (influenza-like illness) symptoms to the Cabinet today.
“We will continue to upgrade our surveillance system so that patients suffering from the flu can be treated faster,” the minister said.
On the purchase of the SMC building for RM280mil, Liow said the Government had to acquire the building to overcome shortage of medical facilities in Sabah following the closure of Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s main block and podium which had been declared unsafe.
He said a further RM90mil would be spent to renovate the building and to upgrade its facilities, including increasing the number of beds from 171 to 455.
“With the purchase, the problem could be solve expeditiously and with minimal effect on the public seeking medical treatment.
“The renovation is expected to take only six months while constructing a new hospital will take three to five years,” he said.
Liow said the purchase of the SMC building would also allow the ministry to offer new and extensive treatments including cardiology, cardiothorasic surgery, oncology, radiotherapy and diagnostic imaging.
“This is not the end of our efforts to provide Sabahans with quality medical facilities. We are also in the final stage of planning for the construction of a new twin-tower block at the present Queen Elizabeth Hospital site which has a capacity of 660 beds,” he added.
The agreement was signed by Land and Mines director-general Datuk Abd Halim Ain in his capacity as the Federal Land Commissioner and SMC chairman Dr Tseu Fui Loong.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

‘Champion docs’ to share advice on treating A(H1N1)

Star: PETALING JAYA: The Government has appointed 15 senior clinicians to advise other doctors on the appropriate treatment for Influenza A(H1N1).
Dubbed “champion doctors”, Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said there would be one from each state and federal territories to advise private and government hospitals that treated flu patients, especially those in the intensive care unit (ICU).
The chosen clinicians are those experienced in treating the virus.
Liow said they were tasked by the ministry to visit hospitals to advise other doctors on the proper treatment procedures and techniques.
More “champion doctors” will be identified and appointed later.
“They will be making the rounds at the hospitals in their respective states,” he told a press conference after a media workshop on the virus yesterday.
“They will also be interacting with the public and local community leaders to get feedback on the ground.”
He added that the measure was to focus on effective treatment of ICU patients because the ministry noticed that some were prone to contracting secondary infections even after they had recovered from the primary A(H1N1) infection.
“These patients must be treated quickly,” he said.
He said the ministry would continue to adjust measures to handle A(H1N1) patients effectively.
As an added measure, Liow said the Government also needed more private companies to carry out their corporate social responsibility (CSR) to raise awareness on preventing infection from the virus.
He also advised the public to be more vigilant during the Hari Raya balik kampung exodus and to be hygienic to prevent its spread.
This was because the ministry was concerned there might be a sharp increase of cases during the festive season.
Liow also suggested that transport operators place hand sanitisers in strategic places for the public to use.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Many still clueless about H1N1, says D-G

Star: PUTRAJAYA: Many people are still unclear about Influenza A(H1N1) symptoms despite the aggressive awareness campaign by the media and health authorities, said Health Ministry director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican.
He said judging from calls received by the ministry’s hotlines, many people were still unaware that the A(H1N1) symptoms were fever, cough, headache, pain in joints or body aches, cold, sore throat and breathing difficulty.
“We still get many calls asking for the symptoms,” he said.
Dr Ismail said the five preventive measures the public should take on A(H1N1) are:
> cover the mouth when coughing or sneezing
> maintain good personal hygiene by constantly washing hands,
> stay away from individuals with influenza-like illness (ILI)
> avoid crowded places, and
> parents with young children should stay away from public places.
Dr Ismail said no new deaths had been recorded over the past 24 hours, adding that the death toll remained at 73.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Flu death toll rises to 73

Star: PUTRAJAYA: Health authorities have confirmed another death due to Influenza A(H1N1), bringing the death toll to 73.
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said the 25-year-old woman from Betong, Sarawak, was admitted to the district hospital on Sunday with fever, cough and sore throat and had previously sought treatment for a similar illness from the same hospital.
“On Aug 31, she was referred to the Sibu Hospital for further treatment where anti-viral treatment was given to the patient. She died the next day due to severe pneumonia with H1N1 infection,” he said yesterday.
He added that laboratory test results confirmed that the victim had been infected with the H1N1 virus.
Dr Ismail said 266 new patients with influenza-like illness had been admitted to hospitals while 293 patients were discharged.
There are 1,211 patients being treated in hospitals nationwide, including in 11 private hospitals, and 230 are confirmed H1N1 patients.
Dr Ismail said there were 41 cases in the intensive care units, including five new admissions.
He said the ministry was concerned about people who continued to frequent public places despite having cough, sore throat and fever when they should be staying indoors.
“They should only go out if necessary and not go shopping or patronise entertainment outlets and attend gatherings. Even when it is crucial for them to leave the house, they must put on a face mask.
“It seems that many are still unaware of how the virus is spread –which is through fluids when talking, coughing or sneezing. The public should also keep their distance from people who are ill,” he added.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Liow: Make smaller masks

Star: KLANG: Manufacturers of masks have been urged to consider making smaller masks for children in addition to the standard ones.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the standard-sized masks, which come with elastic bands to hold them in place, were too big and loose for children.
“It won’t be effective if they are loose,” Liow told reporters after handing over boxes of surgical masks to schools in the Klang parliamentary constituency.
He also briefed teachers and students about the Influenza A(H1N1) at the event at the SJK (C) Pandamaran A yesterday.
He said it was important for schoolchildren to take preventative measures because if the infections occurred in schools, the outbreak would be rapid.
Liow also said it was the collective responsibility of all teachers and principals to examine their students to detect if they had fever, adding that if they did, they should be sent home.
Teachers, he said, should be on high alert at all times to identify pupils who were not well.
He said the country was well prepared in tackling the outbreak, pointing out that the Government allocated some RM158mil to strengthen and instill the necessary measures to counter the pandemic.
Malaysians were told to take all the necessary precautions as the World Health Organisation had given six months to a year for the pandemic to subside.
Meanwhile, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said the authorities were in the midst of determining if three deaths reported in Negri Sembilan on Sunday were due to Influenza A(H1N1).
“The cases, involving victims aged between 24 and 42, have been forwarded to the Mortality Review Committee. The committee will announce its findings as soon as possible,” he said yesterday.
Currently, the death toll stands at 72.
Dr Ismail said 278 new patients had been warded for influenza-like illness (ILI) over the past one day.
He also said that a total of 1,373 patients were being treated for ILI nationwide and of the number, only 193 people were confirmed to have been infected with Influenza A(H1N1) and 43 of them were being treated in the Intensive Care Unit.

Monday, August 31, 2009

No cases of new flu strain in Malaysia

Star: PETALING JAYA: No cases of the new severe strain of the Influenza A(H1N1) have been reported in the country but the Health Ministry is taking no chances.
Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the ministry and Medical Research Institute (IMR) were monitoring the situation closely after the World Health Organisation (WHO) confirmed the new form of the virus.
“Until now, what we have is still (the original strain of) H1N1,” he said.
The WHO reported that the new form of the virus went straight to the lungs and caused more severe illness, even in healthy people.
Liow said his ministry was expecting a detailed report from WHO describing the new form of the A(H1N1) as well as samples for the ministry’s task force to test and track with.
“Our special task force will be monitoring this closely and getting regular reports from WHO,” he told The Star yesterday.
He said the report of a stronger form of the pandemic virus was of some concern as it came on the heels of WHO’s warning that the winter season in many countries was likely to usher in a second wave of infections that was expected to have greater impact than the first which started in May.
“That’s why WHO warned us on the second wave. It is more deadly if the new form can directly attack the lungs.
“We will have to give early warnings and alert people on the new characteristics of the virus. Treatment must be strengthened,” he added.
Meanwhile, a 49-year-old unemployed man who died of severe pneumonia in the Malacca Hospital became the latest victim of the influenza A(H1N1), bringing the total number of deaths due to the flu in the country to 72.
The man was admitted to the hospital on Aug 13 with fever, coughs and vomiting and was immediately given anti-viral drugs and antibiotics but his condition continued to worsen despite being tested negative for tuberculosis, typhoid, dengue and leptospira infection and died on Aug 19.
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Meerican, in a statement, said post-mortem biopsy report, based on lung samples, tested positive for influenza A (H1N1) on Aug 24.This is the first reported death since last Wednesday when a 24-year-old woman, who died on Aug 19, was confirmed to be the 71st victim by the Health Ministry mortality review committee.
Meanwhile, as of 9am yesterday, 202 new patients with influenza-like illness (ILI) have been admitted to hospitals for treatment, while 285 had been discharged, said Dr Ismail.
This has brought the total to 1,515 ILI patients being treated in 97 hospitals including five private hospitals.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

WHO finds Malaysians have low understanding and poor knowledge of A (H1N1)

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: A report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has revealed that Malaysians have low understanding and poor knowledge on the spread of the Influenza A (H1N1).
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the WHO report he received on Thursday showed the public did not take H1N1 seriously, leading to an increase in cases.
He said of the four campaigns, that on the wearing of nose and mouth masks, personal hygiene, use of sanitisers and hand cleaning, only the wearing of masks had given the public the most awareness.
"Public awareness on measures to check the spread of H1N1 is still low, despite the many campaigns held from May to Aug.
This includes high-risk groups.
"It seems that public response and awareness is still lukewarm. We cannot afford to be complacent," he told reporters after launching the "Let's Stop H1N1" campaign organised by MCA here on Saturday.
The report was filed by three WHO experts who were here to monitor the pandemic, including publicity campaigns and public response.
Liow said the ministry would continue to hold campaigns to raise public awareness via forums, talks and exhibitions with the support of the mass media, political parties and non-governmental organisations.
However, he was satisfied with the Government's proactive measures to check the spread of the virus.
"WHO knows that we have a sensitive and capable system that can trace and detect A (H1N1) patients fast. We are able to track and treat them early.
"Although the death rate in Malaysia is quite high, it is still within the WHO limit."
Malaysia has registered 71 deaths from H1N1.
He said WHO proposed that more beds be made available at intensive care units (ICU) in hospitals to accommodate high-risk patients.
"WHO's proposal will be implemented in hospitals as the number of H1N1 patients have increased."
Liow urged public transport operators to place sanitisers at terminals and distribute masks to passengers during the Hari Raya festive season to check the spread of the virus.
"The sanitisers will show passengers that the operators have high awareness of the virus," he said.
On public fears of a second wave of the A (H1N1) at year-end, that could claim more lives, Liow said hospitals had adequate supply of Tamiflu, the antiviral drug used to treat patients.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Liow: Provide flu feedback

Star: PUTRAJAYA: Private clinics must now fill feedback forms issued by the Health Ministry whenever they treat patients with Influenza A(H1N1).
The completed forms must be sent back to the ministry daily to ensure cases of the virus were reported accurately and quickly, said minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.
“The forms were given to the hospitals and clinics to help update the Government so that we can monitor the situation at the grassroots-level and ensure patients are given quick treatment,” he said after a dialogue session with various private medical associations here yesterday.
Liow said the ministry had given the private medical industry clear guidelines on treating patients suspected of having the pandemic virus.
“We stressed to the private sector that quick and proper treatment is needed for H1N1 and they fully understand this need,” he said.
At the dialogue session were representatives from the Malaysian Medical Association, Malaysian Private Hospitals Association, Primary Care Doctors Organisation Malaysia and Federation of Private Medical Practitioners Association Malaysia.
It has been reported that private medical practitioners were unclear on the guidelines set by the ministry, which they had claimed were varied and conflicting.
Liow said the associations were issued with flowcharts that detailed the treatment and procedures to be given to the patients according to the risk levels involved.
He explained that due to lack of facilities, private clinics must immediately refer all patients with moderate to high risk – to either private or government hospitals for further treatment.
This was to prevent late treatment of patients, a factor the Government had blamed as one of the reasons for the deaths related to the pandemic.
On the prices of anti-viral drugs, he said the ministry was also negotiating with local manufacturers to put a cap on prices.
“I assured the associations that there is enough supply of anti-viral drugs in the market. The ministry will intervene to lower the price of the anti-viral drugs,” he said.
He said although the market price was between RM120 and RM160 per unit, several companies were now selling it at RM80.
Liow also said a World Health Organisation monitoring team had indicated that Malaysia’s pandemic surveillance was “active and sensitive”.
“The organisation concurred our classification system was good to track the H1N1. We’ll continue to be vigilant,” he said.
Meanwhile, no new A(H1N1) deaths were registered yesterday, leaving the death toll at 71, with 259 confirmed cases.
Health Ministry director-general Tan Sri Dr Mohd Ismail Merican said of the figure, 53 were in the Intensive Care Unit.
Forty-one were risk factor cases like those with chronic illnesses, obesity, children or babies, pregnant women, new mothers and Down Syndrome.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Private health practitioners will discuss ways to handle A(H1N1) cases

Star: PUTRAJAYA: Private doctors will be meeting with Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai and ministry officials today to discuss how to handle A(H1N1) cases.
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said, “We hope to get a good turnout from the doctors so that they can have a frank and open discussion with the minister. Everyone must play their part to prevent the spread of the disease.”
Dr Ismail said parents should also limit the number of outings involving children, especially to public and crowded places to prevent them from being exposed to the flu.
“We cannot emphasise enough how important it is for the public to be responsible for their own well-being by practising good personal hygiene and social distancing if they are unwell,” he added.
He also announced that a 24-year-old woman who died on Aug 19 has been confirmed as the 71st A(H1N1) fatality in the country.
Dr Ismail said the woman’s death was confirmed by the mortality review committee yesterday.
As of yesterday, 324 new patients were warded in hospitals for influenza-like illness (ILI).
The woman, he said, was an obese person who had suffered from fever, cough and headache on Aug 8 and was warded in a private hospital in Kuantan on Aug 10.
“She was given viral pneumonitis treatment and was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit two days later when her condition worsened. The patient was given anti-viral treatment on the same day,” he said.
Dr Ismail said that on Aug 17, the laboratory test came back positive for A(H1N1) but the patient died on Aug 19 and the cause of death was A(H1N1) with acute respiratory distress syndrome.
He said the accumulative figure of those being treated for ILI nationwide was 1,446, adding that the actual number of patients being treated for A(H1N1) totalled at 217.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

H1N1: Toddler is victim number 70

Star: PETALING JAYA: A three-year-old child has died of the influenza A(H1N1) virus, bringing the total number of deaths to 70.
As at 9am yesterday, 52 new patients had been admitted for influenza-like illness, said Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican.
The child’s death, he said, had been confirmed by the Mortality Review Committee.
“On Aug 12, the child sought early treatment in the hospital after experiencing seizure and cough for two days.
“The child was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit and was given Tamiflu treatment after the patient’s condition deteriorated on Aug 13,” he said in a statement yesterday.
The child had tested positive for H1N1 on Aug 17.
However, the child died on Aug 18 due to H1N1 encephalitis with cerebral oedema and multiple organ failure, he said.
Dr Ismail said 1,345 patients with influenza-like illness were seeking treatment at 82 hospitals including a private hospital nationwide.
Of that, 202 patients (15%) had tested positive for H1N1.
“Of the 202 cases, 42 are in ICU and 38 cases (95%) had risk factors such as chronic disease (15 cases), obesity (nine cases), diabetes (six cases), children or babies (three), pregnant or postnatal (three) and Down Syndrome (two cases),” he added.
Dr Ismail also said that 152 patients with influenza-like illness had been discharged.
He advised parents to monitor the movement of their children during the ongoing school holidays to ensure they stayed away from crowded places.
“It is important to ensure that children are not exposed to infections,” he added.
Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai is scheduled to have a dialogue on the handling of influenza-like illness with private medical practitioners on Aug 27.
In Terengganu, State Health, Unity and Consumer Affairs committee chairman Dr A. Mokhtar told the state assembly that there were 895 cases of H1N1 in the state since the outbreak two months ago but no deaths had been reported there.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sarawak to have its own flu-testing laboratory

Star: KUCHING: Sarawak, which has seen a three-fold increase in the number of patients being admitted for influenza-like illness, is setting up a flu-test laboratory.
Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan Hong Nam said the laboratory at the Sarawak General Hospital here was expected to be operational by the middle of next month. Samples are now sent to Sabah for testing.
Speaking after a meeting on the pandemic at the state Health Department here yesterday, Dr Chan said the number of patients admitted to government hospitals for Influenza A(H1N1) rose dramatically to 38 on Friday from just 12 on Aug 10.
Three pregnant women were among six who had died from the flu in the state.
He said there was also a sharp increase in the number of outpatients with influenza-like illness at government clinics.
“Influenza-like illness represented about 0.5% of total outpatient attendances in mid-July. But the figure has now increased to 5.5%.
“I am not sure when the rising trend will peak,” he said.
Dr Chan said government hospitals in the state had been instructed to reduce elective or non-emergency surgeries.
The move was to reserve medical equipment, like ventilators, to treat H1N1 patients, he said.
Dr Chan said a makeshift “isolation ward” had to be erected under a tree in a car park of the Sri Aman Hospital to treat H1N1 patients due to inadequate facilities at the hospital.
Dr Chan said the health department had set up fever clinics at the Sarawak General Hospital and Sibu Hospital to reduce crowding at the accident and emergency department.
He added that the state Natural Resources Environment Board had been directed to buy one million pieces of surgical masks for distribution to schools and others.

Use hand sanitisers to prevent spread of virus, says Liow

Star: BUKIT MERTAJAM: The public is strongly encouraged to use hand sanitisers to prevent the transmission of the Influenza A(H1N1) virus.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said many people touched food and faces soon after touching tables, doorknobs, switches or even shaking hands with others.
“The public must regularly wash their hands with water and soap or clean them using hand sanitisers.
“This is one way to keep personal hygiene at a high level to avoid being infected with the A (H1N1) virus,” he said when opening the Influenza A(H1N1) prevention campaign at the Bukit Indera Muda rural clinic in Permatang Pasir yesterday.
Liow said apart from being air-borne, bacteria and viruses could be transmitted via the hands which could easily get dirty from touching objects.
People should ideally wash their hands with soap for 15 to 20 seconds, or with alcohol-based hand sanitisers, he said, adding that they should avoid touching their eyes, nose or mouth, especially before washing hands.
Liow said there were 380 new cases reported yesterday, bringing the total in the country to 5,876 cases to date. There were no deaths reported yesterday.
“There are 1,556 patients still warded in 98 hospitals nationwide of whom 220 have been confirmed as having the virus,” Liow said.
He encouraged Permatang Pasir residents to come out and vote on Tuesday as necessary precautionary measures have been taken, including the opening of help desks by the ministry in all nine polling stations.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Liow: Treat all patients with influenza

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Private hospitals refusing to treat patients with influenza-like illnesses will be dealt with severely, warned Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.
He said the ministry could issue summons to such hospitals as provided for under the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998.
“I am the Health Minister for both private and government hospitals and I have given a ministerial directive (to treat patients with ILI). Under this directive, there is no such thing as private hospitals refusing treatment to these patients,” he said after launching the Influenza A (H1N1) Care Clinic here yesterday.
Liow said the ministry was checking on deaths due to late treatment of patients at private hospitals that have been provided with anti-viral drugs.
“Private hospitals can also send throat swab samples for testing at government hospitals. This will be free-of-charge. Just treat the patients,” he urged, adding that the first batch of flu vaccine consisting of 400,000 doses would arrive in mid-October and the second batch in January.
Earlier, after launching a stem cell research and therapy seminar at Ampang Hospital, Liow said government clinics would be opened on weekends to treat flu patients to reduce congestion at public hospitals.
The clinics in Selangor will be open from 8am to 8pm while other state health directors will decide for clinics in their respective states.
Public hospital doctors will be deployed to the clinics for assistance when needed, he added.
He also urged parents to donate their baby’s umbilical cord blood at government hospitals as at least 10,000 samples are needed to find the right match for patients in need.
The country only had about 3,000 samples now, he said, adding that the government had launched four guidelines for the public and private sectors to regulate research into stem cell research and therapy.

569 new A(H1N1) infections

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The highest number of Influenza A(H1N1) cases in a day has been recorded with 569 infections.
One more death was also reported yesterday bringing the total number of fatalities to 68.
The latest victim was a 33-year-old woman who was 34 weeks pregnant. Her unborn baby also did not survive.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the woman was admitted to a private hospital in Johor Baru on Aug 8 after developing fever and cough for a day.
Five days later she was referred to the Sultanah Aminah Hospital when she experienced breathing difficulties and was given Tamiflu, he said, adding that she died on Aug 13 from severe pneumonia and respiratory failure.
After opening the Influenza Care Clinic Campaign on prevention and treating the A(H1N1), Liow said 1,533 patients with influenza-like illness (ILI) were admitted to 104 hospitals from which 195 tested positive for the virus and 35 patients are in the intensive care units.
He said 20 of those in intensive care had risk factors such as diabetes, chronic diseases, asthma, pregnancy and obesity. A total of 188 people have been discharged from hospitals, he said, adding that up to yesterday, there were 5,496 confirmed cases in the country.
Liow said that the number of cases did not reflect the true situation as it only showed cases that were confirmed by laboratory tests and those that were admitted to hospitals.
The World Health Organisation has stated that for every confirmed case, there are 20 other undetected cases in the community.
Liow added that 80% of deaths due to the virus were among the high-risk groups.
During the Care Campaign, 85 private clinics in the country will sell a box of 10 FluHalt (Oseltamivir Phosphate) capsules manufactured by Ranbaxy Malaysia at RM80, instead of the usual price of RM180.
Participating clinics can be identified with the sign ‘Klinik Cegah dan Rawat Influenza A(H1N1)’ on the door.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

‘Avoid public places’ advice for those with flu symptoms

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: People with symptoms of flu have been advised to stay away from public places as the Health Ministry reported 257 new cases of Influenza A (H1N1) over the last 24 hours up to 8am yesterday.
Director-General of Health Tan Sri Dr Mohd Ismail Merican said people with symptoms of flu should avoid going to public places such as shopping malls and avoid using public transportation.
“The Health Ministry has found that many people suffering from influenza A(H1N1) were not co-operating to contain the spread of the disease,” Dr Mohd Ismail said in a statement.
No deaths were reported in the 24 hours up to 8am yesterday. Of the 257 new cases reported, 36 were under treatment in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of hospitals, and 21 of these cases had been classified as being in the risk category.
These are patients who were pregnant or in the post-delivery period, suffering from diabetes, chronic ailments, asthma, obese or being special children.
Dr Mohd Ismail said people with a mild flu could spread the virus to others when they coughed or sneezed.
”As such, those with flu symptoms should remain at home and not visit public places, offices or schools until they have recovered,” he said.
Dr Mohd Ismail advised members of the public to keep themselves updated by surfing the special H1N1 website,, or contacting the hotlines at 03-8881 0200 or 03-8881 0300.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Expert: Case fatality rate not that high

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The number of Influenza A (H1N1) deaths in Malaysia may be higher than that of our neighbours, but the case fatality rate (the number of people with confirmed H1N1 who died) is not remarkably high.
Dr Christopher Lee, consultant physician and head of infectious diseases at Sungai Buloh Hospital, said this is especially when one considers the World Health Organisation estimation that 15-20 cases go unreported for every case of A (H1N1) confirmed.
Dr Lee also said that of the total confirmed Malaysian A (H1N1) deaths, adults made up approximately 70% of the cases (45 out of 67).
While 80% of the adults who died had underlying medical conditions, 20% did not.
As such, all persons with flu are reminded to monitor their condition closely and seek treatment if their symptoms worsen, even if they do not fall in a high-risk group, Dr Lee said at a media briefing at the Sungai Buloh Hospital yesterday.
Based on US data, Dr Lee said the age group most likely to contract A (H1N1) flu was five to 24.
It was not necessarily because this group was more physiologically susceptible, but because this group was more socially mobile and likely to be exposed to the infection.
However, the age groups most likely to experience flu complications requiring hospitalisation were the very young (below five, especially those below two) and the very old (over 65), as normally seen with seasonal influenza, he explained.
Meanwhile, three more deaths due to A (H1N1) were reported yesterday, taking the total to 67.
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Mohd Ismail Merican said all the deaths involved those in the high-risk group, including a 33-year-old woman. The second victim was a girl aged 10 while the third was an elderly person aged 71.
Separately, NS Training Council chairman Datuk Dr Tiki Lafe said the 85 national service camps would not be closed because the spread of Influenza A (H1N1) virus was still under control.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Face masks now a price-controlled item

Star: BUKIT MERTAJAM: The Government will control the retail price of surgical masks sold at exorbitant rates while the Health Ministry vows stricter enforcement against people who fail to wear masks if they have flu-like illnesses.
Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the Government would make the single-pry surgical mask as a price-controlled item indefinitely during the current Influenza A(H1N1) pandemic.
He said the item only costs 30 sen each but some people were selling it for RM5 per piece because of the pandemic.
“Selling surgical masks at exorbitant prices during a pandemic is like mencekik darah (squeezing blood from customers),” he said.
“Under the Price Control Act 1946, we can include face mask as a price-controlled item in the context of a health emergency,” he told newsmen at the Permatang Pasir by-election nomination centre here yesterday.
Muhyiddin said the ruling would be imposed on producers, distributors and retailers of masks, adding that they should also ensure there were adequate supply of masks.
He said he would direct Domestic Trade, Cooperative and Consumerism Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob to have the item gazetted, adding that the necessary licences would be issued to the distributors.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said “it is mandatory for those suffering from influenza-like illnesses to wear face mask and if they don’t, we would take stern action against them under the Disease Control Act 1988”.
“We want the people to practise personal hygiene to reduce the spread of the flu,” said Liow, who was at the Youth Skills Development Institute here yesterday.
He said two more deaths from the flu were recorded yesterday – a seven-month-old baby and a 74-year-old woman, bringing the death toll to 64. There are 4,225 cases reported so far.
“To date, we have 284 patients still warded in hospital, of which 33 are in the intensive care unit, including 17 who are from the high-risk group – people who are obese or with chronic asthma, diabetes and undergoing post-natal recovery,” he added.
Later in Kuala Lumpur, Liow said the Government would declare a national curfew to slow down the spread of Influenza A(H1N1) if the patients’ mortality rate exceed 0.4% based on 20 times of the current confirmed cases, according to World Health Organisation guidelines.
He said the current rate was hovering between 0.1% and 0.4%, adding that the Government was treating the situation as a health emergency situation due to persistent community transmissions.
“We have taken various steps to ensure the situation can be controlled well,” he said after opening the Asia Healthcare Conference 2009 yesterday.
Liow added that a health emergency meant that there was “dynamic and persistent” community transmissions between 200 and 400 reports of confirmed cases a day.
Meanwhile, the Federation of Malaysian Consumer Associations (Fomca) has called on pharmacies and other traders to sell surgical masks with minimal profit or at cost price as a national service to fight the spread of Influenza A(H1N1).
“The normal price would cost around 50 sen but the price has shot up to RM3 to RM4 each due to great demand,” said its secretary-general, Muhammad Shaani Abdullah.

Ministry to hire more private docs

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry wants to hire more private doctors to work in government hospitals to supplement the 50% shortage of medical officers and specialists in the country.
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said the ministry would ensure private doctors were given deserving salaries and promised that their admission into public hospitals would take as fast as two weeks.
“The private doctors can work based on contract or sessions. They can work two weeks in a private hospital and spend the rest of the month in a government hospital. It would be like putting one leg in the public hospital and the other in a private hospital,” he said.
Dr Ismail was speaking to the press after delivering his keynote address on “Building A Safety Culture Through Accountability” at the 8th Ministry of Health Malaysia – Academy of Medicine of Malaysia Scientific Meeting 2009 at the Institute for Health Management here yesterday.
He said the ministry had started advertising since last week to rope in more private medical practitioners.
“In private hospitals, doctors are highly qualified but do not get extensive experience while government hospitals have too many cases but lack skilled medical officers. Therefore, we want to integrate both sides so that patients may get optimum treatment,” he added.
Dr Ismail said the ministry had received complaints from doctors who wanted to join public hospitals but waited up to a year for their applications to be processed.
“But now the ministry wants to adopt a friendly approach and we welcome anyone interested to join us,” he said, adding that the ministry also wanted to retain skilled public hospital doctors even if they were aged over 65.
He revealed that there were currently a total of 25,000 doctors in the country but the health sector still lacked manpower in every department, especially for positions such as anaesthetists, physicians and surgeons.
Those interested to work in public hospitals can download the application form from

Monday, August 17, 2009

Latest batch of A (H1N1) cases brings death toll to 62

Star: SERDANG: Three more deaths have been reported from the Influenza A (H1N1) virus, bringing the overall death toll to 62.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said there were delays in administering patients with anti-viral treatment in two of the three deaths.
“The ministry will check on why there was a delay,” he said yesterday.
The delay involved a three-year-old boy who was admitted on Aug 1 for fever, cough and dyspnea for five days where he received anti-viral treatment beginning Aug 3 but died last Friday due to severe pneumonia, he said.
The other case was a 50-year-old man warded on Aug 3 with cough, fever, dyspnea, vomitting and diarrohea, he said.
He had influenza-like symptoms since July 28 and anti-viral drugs were given on Aug 4 but he died last Friday due to septicemia and pneumonia, Liow said.
In the third case, a six-year-old Down Syndrome boy suffered from congenital heart problem despite being given anti-viral treatment on the same day he was admitted to hospital on Aug 9 for cough, fever and dyspnea.
He died on Aug 13 due to severe pneumonia with underlying problems and complications.
Speaking after launching a healthy lifestyle campaign here, Liow said there were 283 new cases of infection, bringing the tally up to 3,857 cases.
Thirty-three patients remained in the intensive care unit and out of the number, 16 had co-morbid conditions and chronic diseases while 213 were hospitalised in normal wards, he said.
He urged the public to practise social distancing when they have influenza-like symptoms.
The ministry could apply the Disease Control Act to fine those who knowingly infect others up to RM10,000 or jail up to two years, he said.
On private doctors recently saying that they were reluctant to stock up much anti-virals because the ministry’s guidelines were inconsistent, and that they would prescribe the drug on a case-to-case basis, Liow said the guidelines were clear.
On private doctors complaining about the high prices and the lack of stock of the drugs, he said the Government would talk to the supplier with the hope that they could reduce the price and make it available to everyone.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Three more H1N1 deaths reported, says Ismail

Star: PETALING JAYA: Three more deaths from influenza A (H1N1) have been reported and all of them were among the high-risk group, said Health Ministry director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican.
The first was a 22-year-old man, who was obese, and the second was a 29-year-old man who suffered from valvular heart disease.
The third fatality was a 44-year-old woman with a history of asthma, who died of pneumonia.
The 22-year-old man died of viral pneumonia while the cause of death for the 29-year-old man was severe bronchopneumonia.
Dr Ismail said people with mild influenza symptoms were still visiting shopping complexes, travelling, working, going to school or taking public transports.
“The ministry found that many of them did not wear masks and those who did were healthy,” he said, urging those with influenza symptoms to stay home until they recovered.
Dr Ismail said antiviral treatment would only be given to three groups – those with influenza-like illnesses and showed risk factors, those with high fever (more than 38 degrees Celcius) for more than two days and those who tested positive for the virus.
“We want to clarify that the vaccine for influenza A is still not available yet while the one available in the market is for seasonal flu,” he said.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Too many confusing messages

NST: PUTRAJAYA: There are too many mixed messages and misinformation about influenza A (H1N1) and this is confusing the people, Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said yesterday.
The minister called on the media not to carry stories and advice, such as not to give Tamiflu to children and not engage in masturbation and homosexual activities, to avoid being infected by the virus.
"There is too much conflicting advice and misinformation in the media and this has caused panic and confusion among the people," he told the New Straits Times yesterday.
He urged Malaysians to listen only to instructions from the ministry as they were in line with the guidelines given by the World Health Organisation.
"We also have our own infectious disease experts who continuously update us."
He said if the people adhered strictly to the ministry's advice, they could avoid getting infected by the virus.
Liow said the ministry had received numerous calls from the public over contradictory statements issued by some doctors, including those who practise traditional and complementary medicine.
He said there must be consistency in the message given to public so as to avoid confusion.
Another 450 new confirmed cases and five deaths had been reported over the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 3,365 cases and 56 deaths.
The latest victims were two 2-month-old babies, a 57-year-old diabetic, a 49-year-old diabetic who was also obese and a 19-year-old youth who had no risk factors.
Liow said 72 patients had been hospitalised, including 27 in intensive care.

Clinics not keen on stocking up Tamiflu

Star: PETALING JAYA: Private clinics are hesitant to stock up on the A (H1N1) anti-viral drug, Tamiflu, due to its high cost and inconsistent guidelines from the Health Ministry.
According to a survey carried out by The Star among 12 private clinics here, eight did not have the supply and did not intend to place orders with suppliers.
“The Government is inconsistent in giving guidelines regarding the prescription of drugs,” said a doctor in Jalan Bangsar in Kuala Lumpur.
Yesterday, Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai directed all public and private hospitals to administer immediate treatment to patients with flu-like symptoms and with high fever that persisted for more than 48 hours.
Prescription should be made based on the doctor’s discretion and on a case-by-case basis, said the doctor who did not want to be named.
“If we indeed follow the latest guidelines, the supply will run out soon. It will be harder for us to restock, as there is a limited supply nationwide,” he said.
Most of the nation’s supply had been taken up by government hospitals, said another private medical practitioner in Cheras who wished to remain anonymous.
“The Government is not releasing sufficient quantities of the drug to private hospitals. We are left on our own to source for the drugs.
“On the ground, there is no supply at all for private clinics,” he said.
He added that the Government should focus on preventive measures rather than the cure, as the virus can build up resistance to the drug over time.
“The Government is not making people, especially school and college students, wear masks,” he said.
Another doctor from Bukit Sentosa said that maintaining the standard of hygiene was more important.
He said he had observed a shortage while sourcing the drug for his clinic.
“I have not seen genuine Tamiflu made by Roche in Malaysia. What we have are generic drugs,” he said, adding that he was not adhering strictly to the ministry’s guidelines.
“I only prescribe to confirmed cases.”
Some cited the drug’s high price, ranging between RM140 and RM220 for 10 tablets, as a leading factor in deterring them from purchasing it.
“The loss would be too high to bear if nobody buys the drug,” said Dr Raman Nathan of Klinik Sentosa at Taman Putra Ampang.