Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Government sick of unpaid bills amounting to RM3.5mil in three months

Star: PETALING JAYA: RM3.55mil – that’s the amount in bills foreign workers left unpaid in government hospitals in the first three months of this year.
And Deputy Health Minister Datuk Rosnah Rashid Shirlin is not amused. She wants employers who do not pay their foreign workers’ medical bills to be hauled up.
“We are concerned about the figures. It is a huge amount for such a short period,” she said yesterday after attending Pharmaniaga Bhd’s third Vendors Excellence Awards ceremony here.
“A paper is being prepared together with the Human Resources Ministry to make it compulsory for employers to have medical insurance for their workers, given the rampant occurrence of unpaid bills.”
Rosnah said steps would also be taken to require employers to make advance payment and stand guarantee for foreign workers seeking treatment.
Foreign patients had settled some RM916,150 in debts so far, while Malaysians still owed RM4.8mil to government hospitals.
Earlier, Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, in his speech read out by Rosnah, urged pharmaceutical vendors to enhance their delivery service and ensure their products were of good quality and delivered on time in the right quantity.
“Late delivery, product call backs and complaints on product quality are still a bane although the supply system has been implemented for 14 years,” Liow said in his speech.
On the Manek Urai by-election, Rosnah, who is also Puteri Umno chief, said doctors would be on call at the Barisan Nasional command centre and also make home visits.

20 new H1N1 cases reported

Star: PUTRAJAYA: Twenty new influenza A (H1N1) cases have been reported in Malaysia – 16 were imported and four were locally transmitted, said Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican.
He said the latest cases involved 13 Malaysians and seven foreigners – a Vietnamese, a German, an Australian, a Japanese, an American and two Indonesians.
“Forty-two patients are still being treated at hospitals and all of them are responding well to treatment,” he said.
Currently, 10 patients are treated at various hospitals including Sungai Buloh Hospital, Kuala Lumpur Hospital, Penang Hospital, Sultanah Bahiyah Hospital in Alor Star and Kulim Hospital.
The others are at Tuanku Jaafar Hospital in Seremban, Sarawak General Hospital, Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan Hospital, Sultanah Aminah Hospital in Johor Baru and Bintulu Hospital in Sarawak.
“A total of 102 patients have recovered from the disease and have been discharged,” Dr Ismail said in a statement here yesterday.
Currently, 618 people are still under home quarantine and all are healthy.
He said the 19th locally transmitted case is a 39-year-old Malaysian who had contact with his wife and two children.
The other locally transmitted case was a 15-year-old Chung Hwa High School student in Seremban, who contracted the disease from a sibling who had returned from Melbourne.
Dr Ismail said the 21st locally transmitted case involved a 36-year-old teacher from SMK Abdul Rahim 2 in Kudat while the 22nd case was a 16-year-old student from Tsun Jin Height School at Jalan Loke Yew, Cheras, who had contact with a school mate.
In Sarawak, among those quarantined were a private doctor and his two assistants in Bintulu.
The trio had come into contact with a 17-year-old student who returned from Melbourne on June 25 and who is now under treatment at Bintulu Hospital.
Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan Hong Nam said yesterday that the fourth confirmed case involved a 20-year-old Sarawakian student who returned from Queensland on June 27.
In Seremban, state health, science and technology and innovation committee chairman Datuk Ismail Taib said of the 13 people tested positive in the state to date, eight have recovered.
He said a 19-month-old baby, who was the first locally transmitted case in the state, was also in stable condition.
For latest information on the disease, call the influenza A hotlines at 03-8881 0200, 03-8881 0300, 03-8883 4414 and 03-8883 4415 from 8am to 9pm.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Seremban school closed till July 5

Star: SEREMBAN: Chung Hwa High School near here has become the latest school to be ordered closed after a Form Three student tested positive for the influenza A (H1N1) virus yesterday.
The private school will be closed from today and classes will resume on July 6, its headmaster Sua Sin Zang said.
The girl was believed to have been infected by her 22-year-old brother who had returned for his semester break from Australia on Monday.
Meanwhile, health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said a 15-month-old toddler who was under home quarantine has been infected with the H1N1 virus, bringing the total number of cases to 124.
There were 12 new cases as of yesterday morning, of which 11 were imported, including four from Jakarta, which was a first.
Of the 12 cases, six involved children, including the toddler who was the 17th local transmission case.
Dr Ismail expressed concern whether those under the seven-day home quarantine abided by the ministry’s 10 precautionary steps.
The boy, he said, had no overseas travel history but his mother had visited Phuket and became the country’s 86th case.
All passengers and crew on affected flights are advised to contact the ministry or call the current hotline numbers at 03-88810200 or 03-88810300.
On news reports that the SJK (C) Jalan Davidson principal had returned to the school while still on his seven-day home quarantine, Dr Ismail said they would investigate the matter, adding that there had been no cases of people jumping quarantine so far.
In George Town, Pulau Tikus assemblyman Koay Teng Hai, who returned from China on June 19, has been put under home quarantine as a precautionary measure after he complained of headache and sore throat.
State Health, Welfare, Caring Society and Environment Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said swab samples from Koay have been taken for testing.

Liow: Check for ‘silent killers’

Star: PUTRAJAYA: Millions of Malaysians will be encouraged to report regularly to government clinics for health counselling from next year.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said health checks and counselling on a one-to-one basis to prevent or control conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity would be available at the clinics by then.
Currently, one in four deaths in government hospitals can be traced to such conditions, known as silent killers.
“The ministry encourages the people to come to the clinics when they are healthy. Please do not wait until you are sick.
“It is best if you can come as a family,” Liow said in an interview here, adding that such visits would be on a half-yearly basis or once a year, depending on the person’s condition.
Government hospitals and clinics treated 23 million outpatients and two million inpatients yearly, Liow said, adding that preventive measures like health checks and counselling would help to reduce the incidence of people falling sick.
He said it was alarming when people told him that they did not know the meaning of high blood pressure and never had their pressure taken.
He said two thirds of the estimated five million Malaysians with high blood pressure were not aware of their condition.
The ministry’s statistics found that 43% of Malaysians aged 30 and above were prone to high blood pressure.
Apart from that, 60% of Malaysians had weight problems, 30% were overweight and another 30% were listed as obese based on the Asia-Pacific Body Mass Index guidelines.
Liow said 200 nutritionists would be employed for the 800 government clinics in stages, adding that he would present a paper on its implementation to the Cabinet soon.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A(H1N1) suspects get one-week leave proposal

Star: PUTRAJAYA: The Cabinet has decided that employees in self-quarantine for suspected influenza A (H1N1) will be accorded a week’s medical leave with full pay.
They would have to get a letter from any government hospital or clinic to certify that they had to be quarantined at home for a week, Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said.
“The letter will then have to be produced to the employer who will accord the employee sick leave,” he said in a statement yesterday.
Dr Subramaniam said the move was in line with Section 60F (bb) of the Employment Act.
Meanwhile, students can delay their registration for the 2009/10 academic session at public universities tomorrow if they have been advised by a doctor and have a medical certificate.
Higher Education Department director-general Prof Datuk Dr Radin Umar Radin Suhadi advised the 40,366 successful applicants registering for entry to the country’s 20 public universities to consult a doctor if they were unwell or had symptoms similar to the influenza A (H1N1).
“They may delay registration if advised to do so by the doctor but they must inform their respective institutions,” he told The Star.
Universiti Malaya vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Ghauth Jasmon said all students would be asked to fill a health declaration form.
Health checks and monitoring would be carried out on both local and international students arriving from high-risk countries, he said.
A Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia official said students would be screened at all residential colleges when they register tomorrow.
Universiti Putra Malaysia corporate communications division head Abdullah Arshad said new students would be screened at the Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah Cultural and Arts Centre before they could register at the residential colleges.
Yesterday, 15 cleaners mopped, wiped and scrubbed all floors, tables and chairs at SJK(C) Jln Davidson in Kuala Lumpur.
A professional cleaning company was hired to clean the school in preparation for its reopening today.
Dettol supplied the cleaning products to sanitise all 42 classrooms, along with the halls and toilets.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Schools urged to avoid use of air-conditioners

NST: PUTRAJAYA: Turn off the air-conditioners, switch on the fans and leave the windows open. This is the advice to schools to cut down on the risk of influenza A (H1N1) spreading among students.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said: "An outbreak is less likely to happen if the rooms are well ventilated."
He said Director-General of Health Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican, who is also the chairman of the technical committee on influenza A (H1N1) would be meeting with Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin soon to bring up the matter.
So far, four schools have been ordered to close after local transmission of the disease among their students. They are SK Assunta 1, SK Assunta 2, Sri Cempaka International School and SJK(C) Jalan Davidson.
"We are not going close any more schools unless there is a sustained community transmission," said Liow.
A sustained community transmission is local transmission of the disease to third persons.
Liow assured the people that they need not panic.
"Our health officers are well equipped to contain the infections at this level now although we are still on high alert."
He also urged the public not to play the blame game, referring to calls by angry parents and the public for the father of the 11-year-old girl from SJK (C) Jalan Davidson infected with the flu, to issue a public apology.
"This is not going to solve anything. Now it is simply time to cooperate to make sure that the disease is not spread further."
Liow also had a stern message for those who spread rumours about the outbreak through SMS.
"We got news that people are receiving SMSes with false information about the outbreak.
"The only source for accurate information on the flu can only come from the Health Ministry, and we will be working with the police to find these irresponsible people who are causing panic and unnecessary alarm."

Screening for students entering varsities

NST: KUALA LUMPUR:Students registering at institutions of higher learning for this year's session will be screened for influenza A (H1N1) at campus entry points.
Universiti Putra Malaysia, which is receiving its new students this weekend, has issued a directive that students go to UPM's Dewan Besar for screening.
Head of UPM Health Centre Dr Yahya Abu Ahmad said previously students would check into the various colleges before registering themselves.
"However, this year, as a preventive measure against the H1N1, students will have to undergo screening before checking in."
Dr Yahya said of the 400 foreign students registering for this year's session, 150 who have arrived from last Monday, had undergone screening and all tested negative.
He said screening would also be carried out on the 2,500 existing foreign students who will be returning from July 5, after their semester break.
He said two academic staff who recently returned from Melbourne were referred to the Sungai Buloh Hospital but found to be H1N1 free.
Universiti Teknologi Mara has also set up screening facilities for the 15,783 diploma students and 14,684 degree students joining its campuses throughout the country.
A university spokesman said circulars had been sent out to all students and staff to get themselves screened before joining the new session.
H1N1 screening will also be carried out by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia on Sunday when it receives a total of 3,952 undergraduates, about five per cent of whom are foreign students.
The Monash University Sunway campus near here sent emails to students and staff advising them on how to avoid infection and not infect others.
The university's head of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Professor Datuk Dr Anuar Zaini Md Zain, said staff and students were advised to seek medical help if they had flu-like symptoms.

A(H1N1): 19-month-old toddler among 11 new cases

Star: PUTRAJAYA: A 19-month-old baby is among 11 new cases of influenza A (H1N1), Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said.
The toddler, the 84th case, was among those placed under home quarantine after being found to have had contact with the 72nd confirmed case in the country, an 11-year-old Indonesian boy who arrived at the Low Cost Carrier Terminal on board Flight AK702 on Monday at 1.55pm.
Liow said the child was warded at Seremban Hospital on Tuesday after developing a cough and test results the next day confirmed the presence of the flu virus.
“However, the child’s three other family members who were also quarantined have tested negative,” he told a press conference after handing out excellent service awards to 535 ministry staff yesterday.
Liow said yesterday’s three locally transmitted cases and eight imported cases brought the total number now to 91, but 35 of the patients have recovered and been discharged from hospital.
One of the three locally transmitted cases involved a foreign student in Kuala Lumpur while three of the imported cases were foreigners – from Ireland, Australia and the Philippines.
The foreign student is a 24-year-old Yemeni studying at a private institution and living in Kuala Lumpur, who had contact with the 63rd confirmed case on Tuesday – a Yemeni on holiday here.
In Alor Setar, the Kedah Health Department is looking for those who came into contact with a 29-year-old woman from Sungai Petani, who is the 86th patient in the country.
The woman was among 10 people who had gone to Phuket for five days before returning to the LCCT on Flight AK823 (Seat 28A) at 10am on Sunday.
The group continued its journey to Penang the same day on Flight AK5368 (her seat was 22F) and arrived in Penang at 4.30pm.
Three other people confirmed as having the virus in Kedah were a 21-year-old university student, who returned from Toronto with his two sisters aged 18 and 25.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A(H1N1): Employers asked to allow 7 days unrecorded leave

Star: PUTRAJAYA: Employers have been urged to allow a seven-day unrecorded leave for their staff who are placed under quarantine for the Influenza A(H1N1) upon their return from the United States, the Philippines, Australia or Mexico, says Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.
He said he will propose to the Cabinet next week to make it mandatory.
He added that leave for over 100,000 ministry staff had been frozen until further notice to ensure flu control activities are carried out effectively.
Liow announced 11 new cases, with three locally transmitted while eight others are imported.
Of the three locally transmitted cases two are Malaysians and one Yemeni while the imported cases are foreigners from Ireland, Australia and the Philippines.
Liow also said that the ministry would propose to the Education Ministry that schools, especially those in the Klang Valley that do not have air-conditioning in classrooms to open the windows and doors for good ventilation in a bid to curb the spread of the virus.

12 new cases, two by local transmission, total now 80

Star: PUTRAJAYA: Twelve more cases of influenza A (H1N1) have been reported in the country, said Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican.
Of the number, he said, 10 were imported cases and two locally transmitted, bringing the total number of cases to 80.
“Three of them are foreigners (two from Yemen and one Indonesian) while the rest are Malaysians who have been to the affected countries — Singapore, Britain, Thailand, the Philippines, Australia and the United States,” he said in a statement yesterday.
Until 8am yesterday, he said 44 patients were still being treated at hospitals.
“Until 9pm on Tuesday, 628 people including 164 new contacts are still under home quarantine without showing any symptoms,” he said.
Dr Ismail said the 69th patient was a 23-year-old Malaysian waitress who returned from Singapore on Sunday on an Aeroline bus with the registration number WMF 8862.
A 20-year-old Malaysian student in London, who arrived in KLIA on Friday at 7.30pm on board flight MH 003, was the 70th patient, he said.
He said the patient did not show any symptoms until he had fever on Monday and was referred to the Sungai Buloh Hospital.

The others are:
> A 29-year-old Malaysian who arrived at LCCT on AirAsia AK 747 on Friday at 9pm.
> A Malaysian, 43, who came home from the Philippines on board MH 705 last Wednesday.
> An 11-year-old Indonesian boy who arrived at the LCCT on board AK 702 on Monday at 1.55pm.
> A 27-year-old Malaysian who travelled to Manila on June 14 on MH704 and returned on Friday on board MH 705.
> A six-month-old baby who returned from California on board CX 873 to Hong Kong and connecting flight CX 723 back to Malaysia on Friday at 3.30pm.
> A 19-year-old student who returned from Melbourne on Saturday on SQ 238 and arrived at the Changi Airport.
> A 20-year-old Yemeni student studying English at Asian Life Skill Sdn Bhd; the 10th local transmission case. He had contact with the 63rd patient, a Yemeni who came to Malaysia for holidays.
> Another Yemeni, a housemate of the above Yemeni student; the 11th local case.
> A Malaysian stewardess, 38, who was on MH 150 from Amsterdam to KLIA on June 12.
> An eight-year-old boy, who returned from Melbourne on board MH 148. He is the brother of an earlier patient.

In Johor Baru, a 19-year-old female student who returned from Melbourne last Saturday via Singapore’s Changi Airport became the first flu case in Johor.
She was on flight SQ 0238 and had been in Melbourne for the last six months, Johor Women, Family, Community Development and Health committee chairman Dr Robiah Kosai said.
She had returned home from the airport in a taxi, she said.
The student, she said, was being treated at a hospital while her family members had been quarantined at home for a week.
“The 36-year-old taxi driver and his family are also being quarantined at home for a week,” she told a press conference.
Dr Robiah also noted that the patient’s grandmother had died yesterday due to old age.
She said officers from the Health Department would assist the family throughout the burial ceremony so they would not expose anyone else to the flu.

Throat swab tests at 10 more hospitals

Star: PUTRAJAYA: Malaysians suspected of having the influenza A (H1N1) virus can take throat swab tests at 10 more hospitals, said Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican.
He said these hospitals were in addition to the 28 designated hospitals which had been conducting the test.
The 10 are Selayang Hospital, Serdang Hospital, Ampang Hospital, Putrajaya Hospital, Universiti Malaya Medical Centre, Universiti Kebang­saan Malaysia Hospital, Seberang Jaya Hospital, Sungai Petani Hospital, Sultan Ismail Hospital and Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah Hospital.
The ministry will monitor the situation and add more hospitals to the list, including private ones, if necessary, he told a press conference after chairing a technical committee on influenza A yesterday.
On the rapid spread of the virus, Dr Ismail said the country recorded a 400% increase of the cases within one week.
“This is because some patients did not tell us the whole truth about the people they came into contact with.”
Currently, he said, many did not understand the meaning of self-quarantine.
“Some parents still send their children to religious classes after the day schools they go to have been closed,” he said.
He said the ministry had also decided to give a two-day dose of Tamiflu to flight passengers who arrived at the country and detected with fever before they go home for self-quarantine.
“We will take throat swabs from these people and they will only be required to go to the hospitals if they test positive for influenza A.”
Patients who show good progress three days after admission would be discharged, he added.
“After that, we will allow them to stay at home to finish their medication. This is due to the increasing number of patients. We want to reduce the number of hospital admissions,” he said.
Previously, those who tested positive for the virus had to stay in the hospital for seven days.
On the distribution of Tamiflu, Dr Ismail said the medication would only be given to household contacts — people who came into contact with an infected person for more than four hours and those who had contact with the patient two days before he or she tested positive for the virus. He explained that this was because the medication works best within the first 48 hours a person gets close with the disease.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Set up task force to deal with A (H1N1), says Mohamed Khaled

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Public universities have been advised to set up a task force to deal with any possible A (H1N1) cases.
“Although there have been no cases in public universities so far, the task force should be set up as a pre-emptive measure,” Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin told reporters after opening the fifth Asian Mathematical Conference at Putra World Trade Centre yesterday.
With as many as 15,000 new foreign students expected in the July academic intake, Mohamed Khaled urged higher education institutions to be on their toes.
He added that many of the 70,000 foreign students studying in Malaysia would return from holidays and extra attention would have to be given to those arriving from countries that have been badly hit by the virus.
In Kota Kinabalu, Universiti Malaysia Sabah senior deputy registrar Vina Zahriani said they would meet with health authorities to discuss measures that could be taken to prevent any possible spread of the virus in the university.
“If necessary, we will work with the Sabah Medical Department to set up a screening counter,” she said, adding that the university was preparing to register some 3,000 new students next week.
She said they would also work closely with airport authorities to screen students coming in from peninsular Malaysia to register for the 2009/10 intake.

200,000 frontline staff given anti-virus shots

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: About 200,000 personnel on frontline duties have been vaccinated against the seasonal flu virus, Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said.
They included officers with the Police, Civil Defence Department, Armed Forces, Fire and Rescue Department and Immigration Department, he added.
Liow said these personnel were responsible to ensure that the country’s basic services ran smoothly in the event of a pandemic, as outlined in the National Influenza Preparedness Pandemic Plan 2006.
He added that since 2007, frontline personnel had been given annual vaccinations against seasonal flu that contained components of the influenza A (H3N2), influenza A (H1N1) and influenza B viruses.
“However, the seasonal flu virus vaccine is only effective against the known viruses found in the environment,” he said.
“While it not effective against the new strain of the influenza A (H1N1) which is spreading worldwide now, the vaccination process can help protect a person against the risk of an influenza virus mutating,” he told Liang Teck Meng (BN-Simpang Renggam) in Parliament yesterday.
Liow said the World Health Organisation (WHO) and pharmaceutical companies were striving to produce a vaccine to combat the A (H1N1) virus.
“The vaccine is expected to be ready by the end of this year.”

Returning students urged to stay home

Star: PUTRAJAYA: Students who travel back from the United States, Britain, Australia and the Philippines are required to practise self-quarantine for seven days.
Health Ministry director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said most imported cases reported in the country involved patients who returned from these countries.
“If they develop flu-like symptoms, they must seek treatment immediately. They have to behave,” he told a press conference here yesterday.
He said teachers might also be instructed to take students’ body temperature at school daily so that those who showed flu-like symptoms could be detected early.
“We will discuss this with the Education Ministry tomorrow and decide whether to implement it,” he said.
He said the ministry would also review the checking of health declaration forms filled by in-bound travellers.
“Currently, there have been complaints that such forms were not properly checked by our officers. We might change our approach to ensure that these health declarations are helpful for us to monitor the situation,” he said.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said 10 more cases of influenza A (H1N1) have been reported, two of which are local transmissions, while two more schools have been closed.
He said Seri Cempaka International School was closed after two cases of the disease were confirmed there.
SRK Assunta 1 was also closed yesterday.
Earlier this week, SJK (C) Jalan Davidson and SRK Assunta 2 were shut down.
On Monday, one class each was closed at SMK Damansara Utama, SMK Seksyen 9 Shah Alam and SMK Wangsa Maju Seksyen 2.
The total number of confirmed cases in the country stood at 68 yesterday.
“We now have nine cases of local transmissions. In the latest case involving the Seri Cempaka school, the student is a girl who just returned from Melbourne, and who then infected another student.
“We are monitoring the situation closely. At present, we can still control the infection because we have been able to trace the sources and all their contact persons,” Liow told reporters at the Parliament lobby here.
He reminded Malaysians going overseas to take precautions on matters of personal hygiene.
In Petaling Jaya, Education director-general Tan Sri Alimuddin Mohd Dom said parents with children in schools which had reported cases of influenza A (H1N1) could let them stay home for the rest of week if the children were feeling unwell.
He added that parents should inform the school but a medical certificate was not needed.
“This is specifically for students in schools which have reported cases of the influenza A (H1N1),” he told reporters after visiting SMK Daman-sara Utama yesterday.

Influenza A: No blanket shutdown for schools

NST: PUTRAJAYA: There will be no blanket closure of schools or a ban on public gatherings for now.
Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said “social distancing” in the Klang Valley was not needed yet as the closure of four schools after several students came down with influenza A (H1N1) was sufficient. This is because strict preventive and management measures had been put in place.
However, this decision may change as a technical committee chaired by Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican is meeting today to discuss ways to stop the spread of the virus.
Up for discussion is the possibility of closing schools in the Klang Valley if there are more local transmissions.
Earlier in the day, Muhyiddin, speaking to reporters after a dialogue session with heads of Malaysian missions at the Seventh Heads of Mission Conference at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre yesterday, said the government would step up vigilance to contain the outbreak.
“Do not be too alarmed about it. We will manage the situation.
I wouldn’t want to predict that possibility (blanket social distancing measures) until and unless there is “We don’t want the people to
be unnecessarily alarmed, (considering) the effect that (social distancing) would have on the Klang Valley if this action is taken without proper considerations. ”
Muhyiddin, who is also National Security Council chairman, said the Health Ministry had been directed to organise briefing sessions for teachers and parents to address issues concerning the closure of schools to give them updates on the H1N1 outbreak.
Asked if the government was expecting the pandemic to worsen, Muhyiddin said Malaysia would continue keeping its guard up and follow the protocols in managing H1N1, as advised by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“I want things to get better but, as you know, there is a lot of mobility not only within but outside the country, and people from all over the place still come to Malaysia.”
He said WHO had to come up with some broad understanding on the additional steps that needed to be taken to contain the pandemic.
Asked if Malaysia would push for countries with confirmed cases to impose exit health screening, he said the matter had been raised but there was no consensus.
“Until there is a consensus on what mode and steps are to be taken globally, we will adopt the present arrangement."

More youth getting HIV/AIDS

NST: KOTA BARU: The high number of youth involved in drugs and unprotected sex contributed to the rising number of HIV/AIDS cases.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said from a total of 84,630 cases of HIV/AIDS reported in the country from 1986 to last year, 78.4 per cent involved those aged between 13 and 39.
"It is enough to give us a picture that they started involvement in such high risk activity at an early age, that is while they were still at school," he said at the launching of the national level Schools Healthy Programme for Youth (Program Sihat Untuk Remaja -- Prostar) here yesterday.
The text of his speech was read by the ministry's health education director Abdul Jabar Ahmad.
Liow said a study carried out by the ministry in 2006 showed that only about 50 per cent of 12,784 respondents had a high knowledge about the transmission of the disease while of 640 respondents aged 13 and 14, only 210 were knowledgeable about it.
The minister said the government had taken proactive action in handling the issue, including ensuring at least 95 per cent of those aged between 15 and 24 received information about HIV/AIDS by 2010.
He said as youth problems were not limited to HIV/AIDS, the ministry had enlarged the Prostar programme to include other unhealthy trends like eating habits which led to obesity, smoking and lack of physical activity.
Liow said, according to the Malaysian Association for the Study of Obesity (Maso), 21.4 per cent of urban youth and 16 per cent of rural youth faced obesity problems.
"This situation has led to Prostar, which was previously known as Healthy Programme Without AIDS for Youth, to be changed to Healthy Programme for Youth without changing the initials."
Liow said the health education division was working with the Education Ministry to make the Schools Prostar accepted as a co-curriculum activity at secondary schools.
More than 100 facilitators and co-ordinators took part in the four-day convention which started on Monday.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Second school hit by A (H1N1)

Star: PETALING JAYA: The SRK Assunta 2 here has been directed to close for a week beginning yesterday following a locally-transmitted case of influenza A (H1N1) detected at the school, making it the second school closure due to the disease.
Four other schools – Seri Cempaka International School in Batu 9, Cheras; SMK Seksyen 9 Shah Alam; SMK Damansara Utama in Petaling Jaya and SM Wangsa Maju in Kuala Lumpur – have each had one class stopped from yesterday.
With the exception of SM Wangsa Maju, where the closure order is until Thursday, students in the affected classes of the three remaining schools will have to skip school until Saturday.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai told a press conference here yesterday that an 11-year-old pupil from SRK Assunta 2 tested positive for the virus yesterday, which resulted in the closure of the school with immediate effect.
He said SRK Assunta 2 would reopen on June 29, while SRK Assunta 1, which shares the same building and is the afternoon session of the school, was not affected by the closure.
Liow said only those schools where local transmissions were detected would be closed.
He urged parents not to panic, adding that children from affected schools must observe all home quarantine guidelines.
“They must stay at home and observe good hygiene.
“They must not go out for activities or tuition classes during home quarantine,” Liow said, adding that the family members of the students need not come under home quarantine.
Yesterday, it was reported that the SJK (C) Jalan Davidson in Kuala Lumpur, where an 11-year-old was confirmed to have been infected with the virus, was shut down until Friday after two more pupils fell ill.
On calls to close all schools, Liow said the Government would consider the proposal when the situation warranted it.
Meanwhile, health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said three new locally-transmitted cases were detected in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to seven.
The three cases were among eight fresh cases of influenza A (H1N1) recorded yesterday, bringing the total number in the country to 58.
The five others were imported cases from Australia, Britain, the Philippines and Thai­land.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Foreigners owe govt hospitals RM12.8mil

Star: FOREIGNERS owe government hospitals RM12.8mil, Berita Minggu reported.
Of the figure, 27% is for post-natal care, 12% for accident treatment, 9% for orthopaedic surgery and the balance for outpatient care.
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said this figure was double the RM6.7mil owed in 2000.
“Indonesian nationals owe 47%, Indians and Filipinos owe 17%, while the rest is owed by Myanmar, Bangladeshis, Vietnamese and Thais.”
He said that if every foreign labourer who entered Malaysia was required to have health insurance, this problem could be solved.

Number of cases reaches 50

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Four students and a graduate were among the eight new H1N1 influenza cases reported in the last 24 hours, bringing to 50 the number of infections in the country.
The eight new cases included two local transmissions -- two Year Five pupils of SJK (C) Jalan Davidson who contracted the virus from their classmate who had returned from Melbourne on Tuesday.
One of the pupils showed symptoms on June 19 and was admitted to the Sungai Buloh Hospital the next day, while the other pupil has been admitted to Kuala Lumpur Hospital.
Two other cases involving students were also detected -- a Year Five pupil of Sekolah Rendah Kebangsaan Assunta 2, Petaling Jaya, and a Form Four student of Sekolah Menengah Section 9, Shah Alam.
Health Ministry director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said the Assunta 2 pupil (designated as case 43) was also in Melbourne between June 4 and 14 for a holiday, while the Form Four student (case 45) came down with the flu after returning from the United States on Monday.
The Form Four student's sister (case 47) and another family member (case 28) were also infected. They went to the US with another family member.
They returned to KLIA on June 15 via Korea Airlines flight KE671.
Dr Ismail urged both schools to contact the district health department to enforce a seven-day quarantine for classmates of the infected pupils.
The bank where Case 47 works at has been urged to contact the Federal Territory Health Department to trace the people whom the 22-year-old may have come into contact with.
Among the other new cases were a University of Toronto graduate (case 48) who attended his convocation in the Canadian city. The 21-year-old had also flown to KLIA on Korea Airlines flight KE 671, before returning to his hometown of Alor Star on Firefly flight FY 2168 on June 14.
"Three of his five contacts have been admitted to the hospital's isolation ward for fever, while the other two have been placed under home quarantine," Dr Ismail said.
The sole foreigner detected with the disease yesterday was from Thailand.
The sailor, 33, of a cargo ship, arrived at Port Klang on Friday. The ship crew has been quarantined since Wednesday.

Return of diseases linked to foreign workers

Star: PUTRAJAYA: Infectious diseases like tuberculosis and leprosy which almost disappeared in Malaysia since two decades ago have made a comeback and this can be traced to the millions of foreign workers and illegal immigrants in the country.
There were 16,325 confirmed cases of tuberculosis (14,275 Malaysians and 2,050 foreigners) last year, second only to dengue fever with 17,047 confirmed cases.
Of the 152 confirmed leprosy cases last year, 99 were Malaysians and 53 foreigners.
The two diseases are among the 27 infectious diseases in the Health Ministry’s radar.
Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the rising incidence of tuberculosis could be attributed to, among others, foreign workers and illegal immigrants.
“A total of 10,517 foreign workers failed to get their work permits last year because they had tuberculosis. They made up 28% of the 37,503 who were declared unfit for work permits that year,” Liow told The Star.
But what worries him is the estimated one million or more illegal immigrants – often referred to as “illegal foreign workers” – in the country.
“What we (ministry) are concerned about are the infectious diseases among the illegals which may serve as a hidden source of infection to our local population.
“It can be any type of disease – the existing ones, new ones or even those already wiped out in Malaysia,” he lamented.
Liow pointed out that disease transmission could get out of hand when foreign workers mingled with illegal immigrants.
Although the authorities were monitoring the situation, Liow urged employers to ensure that their foreign workers sought early treatment if they were unwell.
He also reminded them to provide the foreign workers with decent housing and give them adequate rest.
There are an estimated one million illegal immigrants in Malaysia, mostly Indonesians, Filipinos, Bangladeshis, Myanmars and Indians, but many believe the numbers may be higher.
There were 74,134 cases of confirmed infectious diseases in Malaysia last year. Of these, 68,424 were Malaysians and 5,710 foreigners.
And 2,050 or 36% of the 5,710 foreigners had tuberculosis.
Liow said between 7.2% and 8.1% of notified cases of infectious diseases between 2005 and 2008 involved foreigners.

A(H1N1) :School in KL closed

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: SJK (C) Jalan Davidson at Jalan Hang Jebat here has been closed for a week after two local transmissions of the influenza A(H1N1) virus were detected in the school.
Two other schools with infected students – SRK Assunta 2 in Petaling Jaya and SM Section 9 Shah Alam – will also be closed if authorities discover local transmission of the virus there.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said eight cases of the virus were confirmed yesterday, including five schoolchildren – an 11-year-old from SRK Assunta 2, a 16-year-old from SM Shah Alam, and three at Class 5 I of SJK(C) Jalan Davidson.
He said all 2,100 students and staff members of SJK(C) Jalan Davidson had been home quarantined, after the National Security Council chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin agreed to close the school until Friday.
Speaking to reporters after meeting with the school board and parent-teacher association (PTA) here yesterday, Liow said the quarantined students and staff members were not allowed to visit public or crowded places. Students would also have to skip tuition classes for a week.
“They should also have less contact with their family members. They are quarantined but not their families,” he said.
“This action is necessary to prevent more cases among the students and staff members. They must stay at home and follow the advice the ministry has provided,” he added.
Liow said the two 11-year-olds from SJK (C) Jalan Davidson who were the 49th and 50th cases in the country, contracted the virus from a classmate who tested positive on Friday after recently returning from a vacation in Melbourne.
PTA chairman Dr Lai Boon Hai said several members would be on standby at the school from 6.30am today to give out information on the closure and inform as many students and their parents as possible.
“All PTA members are fully behind the decision by the ministry to close the school for one week. It’s for the safety of the children,” he said.
Liow said anyone who fell sick or had a fever must inform the Federal Territory Health Department at 03-2698 3757 or 019-229 9397. The department has a health officer on 24-hour standby.
“At the same time, practise good hygiene and cleanliness by covering your mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Also, wash your hands with soap,” he said.
On whether sterilisation of the school areas was needed, Liow said it was not necessary as the virus could only survive in the open for a maximum of eight hours.
Earlier, when opening an A(H1N1) awareness campaign in Batu 11, Cheras, organised by the Serdang MCA division, Liow said the ministry’s guidelines recommended schools to be closed if a local transmission was detected.
Among the new cases reported yesterday was a 33-year-old Thai national who is crew member on a cargo ship which anchored at Port Klang on June 19.
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said the man was found to have been ill since June 17 and he and 22 other crew members were under quarantine on board the vessel.
The patient was later sent to the Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital in Klang after he tested positive for the virus, Dr Ismail added.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

D-G tells students what they can do to curb flu

Star: PETALING JAYA: Students returning from vacation in countries affected by the Influenza A (H1N1) virus must seek immediate treatment if they have cough and fever and also limit their interaction with friends, including avoiding classes until they get better, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said yesterday.
The restriction on students with flu-like symptoms was necessary to prevent the spread of the virus, he said in a statement.
Dr Ismail also urged the public to cooperate with the authorities by postponing their travel to countries hit by the flu, “and travel only if absolutely necessary.”
“The chances of contracting the virus when flying to an affected country has increased, whether you are in that country or during the flight there.”
Dr Ismail called on everyone who came in contact with those who had been tested positive for the flu virus, including passengers on the same flight and crew members, to get in touch with the Health Ministry at 03-8881 0200 or 8881 0300 for medical advice and home quarantine procedures.
He also urged the public to follow the latest developments on the flu outbreak via the ministry’s website at www.moh.gov.my
In Kepala Batas, Deputy Education Minister Datuk Dr Mohd Puad Zarkashi said the ministry would not hesitate to shut down schools that have students infected by the flu.
He said that the best remedy would be to temporarily close the particular school where the 11-year-old girl, who was tested positive for A (H1N1), came from.
Dr Mohd Puad, however, said the ministry would seek advice from the Health Ministry before deciding on whether to close schools.
As an immediate measure, he said the Health Ministry would be asked to conduct random medical checks among students in several schools in Kuala Lumpur that might be at risk.
Education director-general Datuk Alimuddin Mohd Dom said students found to have flu-like symptoms should go to hospital for a check-up.
On closing schools, he said the decision would be made on a case-by-case basis.
“We urge the public not to panic, as everything is under control,” he added.
National Union of the Teaching Profession president Hashim Adnan said teachers should take precautions by staying alert and identifying students who are unwell at school.
“Even if a student has a mild flu, he should not go to school. It’s as simple as that.”
He proposed that the Health Ministry supply masks to clinics near schools so that teachers can easily get hold of them should they need to.
“The teacher would be in closest contact with a flu-hit student, so masks could help as a preliminary preventive measure for both the student and teacher,” Hashim added.

11 year-old girl among new A(H1N1) cases

Star: PUTRAJAYA: An 11-year-old girl from a Chinese vernacular school in Kuala Lumpur is among seven new confirmed Influenza A (H1N1) cases, bringing the total number to 42.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the pupil had gone to Melbourne on holiday with her family during the school break and travelled with her grandmother who also contracted the flu.
She returned on AirAsia X flight D7 2723 at 7am on Tuesday via the Low-Cost Carrier Terminal and went to school the next day.
“On the second day of school, she developed a fever and was sent to hospital. It was confirmed last night (Friday) that she was infected,” Liow told a press conference after launching the 10,000 Steps Healthy Lifestyle Campaign during the ministry’s Family Day here yesterday.
He said that as of Friday night, the girl’s 46 classmates were placed under home quarantine.
There was no need for parents and teachers to panic, he said, as this was still an “imported” case.
If a locally-transmitted case was reported at the school, Liow said the ministry would order the National Security Council to close the school and initiate “cleaning” activities.
Any closure of schools because of Influenza A (H1N1) cases is to last seven days, which is the period set for home quarantine.
“I have also told the Health director-general to meet with the Education director-general to look into measures that we can introduce, including screening at schools to detect cases earlier,” he said.
Liow called on state governments to check with the Health Ministry before making any announcements on any new cases or ideally, leave it to the ministry to make public such information.
“Our worry is that if there are quarters giving information on cases confirmed after our cut-off time, newspapers will carry varying figures and this will create confusion among the public,” he said.
On the 10,000 Steps Healthy Lifestyle Campaign, Liow said the ministry started the campaign after looking at the worrying trend of rising lifestyle-related diseases in the country.
“I also urge office workers to get off the lift two floors below their office level when they go to work and walk up the stairs,” he said.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Doc: Mental health problems on the rise

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: More Malaysian students are suffering from mental health problems now, with nearly half of them showing emotional and aggressive symptoms.
Malaysian Psychiatric Associa-tion vice-president Dr Abdul Kadir Abu Bakar said one of the main factors affecting students were bullying.
“Victims of bullying tend to have serious mental problems as they grow up, if there is no proper counselling.
“The number of mental health patients aged 18 and below has also increased from 13.7% in 1996 to almost 20% in 2006,” he said at the 14th Malaysian Conference on Psychological Medicine here yesterday.
He urged parents and teachers to pay more attention to the changes in their children’s behaviour.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said 400,227 mental patients sought treatment at the government hospitals last year, an increase of 15.6% compared with 346,196 people in 2007.
“The increase in stress levels and complex social responsibilities are among factors causing more people to develop mental disorders,” he said, adding that more women than men tend to suffer from mental disorders.
Among the mental problems, anxiety is most common in the country, followed by depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
Liow said suicide had also become a serious public health problem worldwide, with one death every 40 seconds.
“In Malaysia, the suicide rate now is between 9 and 12 cases per 100,000 people,” he said, adding the rate among Indians was alarming at between 30 and 35 cases per 100,000 people.
“Mental patients must be rehabilitated and integrated into the community,” he said in his speech read by the ministry’s Medical Development Division director Datuk Dr Azmi Shapie.
A clinical practice guidelines on the Management of Schizophrenia in Adults was also launched at the event.
Dr Azmi said family members played an important role in the recovery process of mental patients.
“Medication can only control their illness as they need the support from family and friends to help them recover and return to society,” he said.

Friday, June 19, 2009

No cause for panic, minister assures public

NST: PUTRAJAYA: The public has been urged not to panic over the country's first locally transmitted influenza A (H1N1) case.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, however, warned of stern action under the Disease Prevention and Control Act 1988, against anyone who concealed the disease. "This is the last warning we are issuing. We expect those infected with the disease to be more responsible in giving us all the necessary information."
Liow was commenting on the country's first locally transmitted case, the 17-year-old student from Petaling Jaya who did not inform the authorities that she had had contact with an infected patient.
The infected patient, a 24-year-old, had given the authorities a list of people he had made contact with, but had left out the girl's name.
The girl was confirmed as the country's first locally transmitted case when she was referred to the Sungai Buloh Hospital on Monday.
It is learnt that she is a student at a private college in Damansara. Investigations revealed that she had also gone to a cinema recently.
The authorities have so far quarantined 20 of the girl's family members and friends with whom she had come in contact with.
Liow also urged the public against panicking as talk of implementing "social distancing" in Petaling Jaya loomed.
"The ministry is taking steps to ensure the infection does not spread further. We are taking all necessary steps. The situation is under control."
He said the ministry would monitor the girl's 20 contacts closely for now.
Social distancing, he said, would only be considered if the 20 quarantined people had infected others. Even then, he said, it would only affect a locality and not the whole district.
"Say, for instance, the risk is concentrated in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, then the measure would be implemented there, with only a few schools affected," he said after a meeting with the Crisis Relief Squad of MCA and the Malaysian Youth Council.
The two groups have been roped in to increase public awareness on health issues, including the influenza A (H1N1), dengue and cervical cancer.
Health director-general Tan Sri Ismail Merican advised those who were sick with flu and fever to quickly seek treatment.
"Go to the nearest clinic or hospital. The doctors will ask you some questions to determine your travel history and the people you would have come in contact with."
Dr Ismail warned of the possibility of the virus mutating. "We haven't seen the worst yet, so we have to brace ourselves. This (the current situation) is like a test to ascertain the capabilities of the affected countries on how to handle the pandemic."

Doctors and pharmacists disagree on dispensing

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Medical Association does not think the country is ready for a separation of duties in the prescribing and dispensing of medication. The Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society, however, differs.
MMA president Dr David Quek said the move would lead to a rise in the cost of healthcare as the sick would have to see a doctor first, then get the prescription filled by a pharmacist.
"It would be a must for patients to see the doctor first before buying any medication.
"It should not be the other way round. Pharmacists, unlike doctors, are not trained to deal with illnesses and pathologies. Some pharmacists actually behave like doctors when they are not empowered to do so," he said.
MPS president Datuk Nancy Ho disagreed saying the separation was a good idea because pharmacists were trained to educate the consumer on medicine.
"We are competent and keen to provide quality pharmaceutical care to the consumers. Separation will enable us to do what we do best in the interest of consumers."
She said pharmacists upheld the highest professional aspirations to provide quality pharmaceutical care.
"There is a strong shift towards active participation by consumers and pharmacists in the decision-making process. A benchmarking and standard operating procedures in community pharmacies will improve the public image and perception of pharmacists."
Federation of Malaysia Consumers' Associations president Datuk N. Marimuthu said through the separation, consumers could become more aware of their medical expenses such as consultation fees, medicine prices and also promote rational prescription of medicines, when pharmacists would examine the prescription as well.
On the other hand, there were also teething problems such as accessibility to pharmacies and the lack of pharmacists.
"The Health Ministry has done a pilot project on the separation but we have yet to know of its findings and the ministry's future plans. Once the initial problems have been ironed out, the separation could benefit consumers in the long run."
Elaborating on the current level of 7,000 registered pharmacists in the country, Ho said the ratio of pharmacists to population at 1 to 4,700 people was acceptable
"By September, the first batch of pharmacists who complete their compulsory government service will improve the ratio. About a quarter of them will be serving as community pharmacists. There are 16 institutions of higher learning producing almost 2,000 new pharmacists per year."
The 21/2 hour NSTLive session yesterday attracted 184 online readers who posted 156 questions and comments.

MMA comes to doctors' defence

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Medical Association president Dr David Quek has come to the defence of private doctors who were said to have failed to report suspected dengue cases to the Health Ministry.
He explained that dengue in its early presentation was very similar to many viral infections.
"If doctors start referring cases to the ministry, there might be too many cases which are not dengue at all.
"Also, not every patient agrees to have blood testing because this costs money and there are lots of viruses out there which need to be excluded," he said in the inaugural NSTLive panel discussion yesterday.
Dr Quek said another factor was that many patients refused to go for follow-ups and chose to "doctor-hop" when their fever did not improve after a day or two.
By the time they get to hospital, their condition would have deteriorated.
The association president said dengue was endemic with periodic peaks. He said it was also seasonal and related to the climate.
"Most important is the breeding of the Aedes mosquito. We must try to eradicate this first. The public must play its part to keep the immediate environment clean and free from the breeding sites of the mosquito."
To the question of whether doctors were prepared to face an outbreak of locally transmitted influenza A (H1N1), Dr Quek said he was not sure if anyone was prepared for it.
"But, because it is already spreading here, we all have to learn very fast. There is no doubt that this is a moderately serious type of flu, which so far seems very contagious, and has killed about one in every 200 infections, which makes it rather in between in terms of lethality."
He said the old Spanish flu was far more contagious, affecting one billion people worldwide at its peak and killing more than 40 million. SARS, too, killed about one in six or seven people.
However, he added that the H1N1 flu was worrying because it had the potential to mutate into a more virulent form which could become a very serious killer.
"This can happen in the second or third wave after the H1N1 flu reaches pandemic level 6, which it has.
"That is why we are so concerned and the Health Ministry is making every effort to contain the situation and prevent this from becoming more serious. You will hear of more preventive measures in the weeks to come."
Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society president Datuk Nancy Ho said there were enough flu medicines, hand disinfectants and masks for the common flu and H1N1.
"However, Tamiflu needs to be prescribed by doctors."
She also assured the public that pharmacists were definitely not taking advantage of the situation by raising prices.
She said MMA and MPS were on high alert to ensure that the situation gets the best attention.
"Members of the public can seek information and advice about the precautionary steps to take to protect adults and children adequately.
"At the same time, all medicines required are managed to ensure the best outcomes."
She said MPS strongly advocated personal care for the public and provided information and public health measures to contain the situation through counselling especially by community pharmacists.
"Our roles as healthcare providers include active sharing of information and knowledge.
"We are also working closely with the Pharmaceutical Services Division in terms of updating and disseminating useful information to members of the public.
"We also work as a team with other healthcare provi-ders such as doctors and nurses."

Influenza A: Compulsory to fill health form

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: From next week, anyone flying into Malaysia will have to fill up a mandatory health declaration form which will be given to them onboard.
Failure to fill the form and provide health particulars could result in a jail term of up to two years and fine of up to RM10,000.
This was among a list of stringent measures announced by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin yesterday to curb the spread of influenza A (H1N1) locally.
The disease infected its 25th Malaysian victim yesterday, a 22-year-old female student who tested positive for the disease and is now warded at Raja Permaisuri Bainun Hospital in Ipoh.
Muhyiddin, after chairing the National Inter-ministerial Committee on Influenza A (H1N1) Pandemic at Parliament yesterday, said the ruling to fill the health declaration form would be gazetted next week.
Present at the meeting were Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican and Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen.
"Travellers, including Malaysians returning from abroad, will have to fill up their personal particulars, including flight and seat numbers and submit the forms to health officers at the airports.
"Currently, it is not mandatory to fill the form and it's only done on a voluntary basis. This began a few months ago. Today, we agreed that the ruling making it mandatory be gazetted," Leow said.
This, he said, was apart from the thermal scanning of passengers returning from H1N1-affected countries.
"Mandatory health declarations have been implemented in countries with H1N1. We hope to get the cooperation of everyone on this."
The mandatory ruling is among 10 steps outlined by the committee to tackle the pandemic. It came after the country recorded its first locally-transmitted influenza A (H1N1) case involving a 17-year-old girl from Petaling Jaya on Wednesday.
Muhyiddin also said "social distancing", such as closing down of schools and cancelling gatherings, would only be implemented by the National Security Council.
"This will only be done after we (the government) decide to do so. We do not give the mandate to schools or departments to implement it. The decision will be made by the council."

The other steps taken are:
- Health officers deployed on board aircraft to scan body temperatures of passengers coming in from the United States, Melbourne (Australia) and Manila (the Philippines);
- Transport operators are required to have masks for passengers with H1N1 symptoms and those sitting three seats in front and behind them;
- Local authorities to tighten existing law and increase enforcement to make sure public toilets are clean;
- Giving influenza vaccines to high-risk groups to reduce infection risks;
- Front-liners to take care of their health and wear appropriate clothes to prevent infections;
- Limiting the number of visitors to hospitals and discouraging children under 12 from visiting;
- Scanning for body temperature at public and private hospitals; and,
- Media campaigns by Information, Communications and Culture Ministry to increase awareness.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Send them to govt hospitals at once

NST: PUTRAJAYA: Patients with flu-like symptoms who have just returned from countries where there are confirmed influenza A (H1N1) cases should be referred to government hospitals immediately.
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said this was important to stop the spread of the disease which had now infected 23 people, with five new cases confirmed yesterday.
Dr Ismail expressed disappointment after a private clinic, which attended to a 54-year-old man on Monday, had failed to refer the patient to the hospital when he sought treatment for the fever, cough and headache he had developed the day before.
The patient went to University Malaya Medical Centre on Tuesday and was taken in an ambulance to Kuala Lumpur Hospital the same day.
The man had returned from a business trip from Manila on Friday evening on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH705 (seat 32H).
His wife and two children are now quarantined at home.
"We are warning all private clinics and hospitals to refer all their patients who had returned from countries affected by the influenza, and those with symptoms of the flu to the hospital immediately for further tests.
"It is regrettable that they fail to do so as it heightens the risk of local transmissions."
A 23-year-old local university student, who was on a seven-day excursion to Australia with 13 others, also tested positive for the disease.
He had taken the AirAsia X flight D72723 (seat 37J) and arrived at the Low Cost Carrier Terminal on Sunday at 7.15am.
The student showed symptoms five hours after his arrival, but only sought treatment at a private clinic the next day. He is now kept in isolation at Sungai Buloh Hospital in Selangor.
A 22-year-old female Malaysian student from Melbourne who was on the same flight also tested positive for the flu.
The woman who was in seat 48H, has been referred to Hospital Raja Permaisuri Bainun in Ipoh, Perak.
The duo had shared the same flight with Malaysia's 17th case, who tested positive on Monday and is currently being treated at Sungai Buloh Hospital.
Dr Ismail said the fifth Technical Committee on Influenza A (H1N1) had issued several directives for the Health Ministry to enforce.
They include discouraging the public, especially children below the age of 12, from visiting hospitals unless to seek treatment.
Each patient will also be allowed a maximum of two visitors at any one time. Visiting hours at all public and private hospitals will also be shortened.
Those visiting patients at public and private hospitals will have to undergo screening for fever.

Scramble to contain first locally transmitted H1N1 case

NST: PUTRAJAYA: As the country’s first locally transmitted influenza A (H1N1) case was announced yesterday, health authorities were scrambling to contain the disease.
The victim was identified as a 17-year-old girl from Petaling Jaya and to date, 20 of her immediate family members and friends have been quarantined.
The authorities, however, are concerned that the 20 in quarantine could have infected others whom health officials are unaware of at the moment.
“If any of the 20 is tested positive, we will then have to track down those whom this person had come in contact with.
“Tracking them down and breaking the chain of infection is our priority now,” said a health official.
Initial investigations revealed that the girl got the disease from her friend, who had tested positive earlier.
The friend, a medical student, was believed to have contracted the disease while on holiday in Melbourne, Australia recently. He later tested positive here and was confirmed as Malaysia’s 12th case.
Health authorities interviewed him and he gave them a list of the people he had come in contact with but for reasons not known, the girl’s name was left out.
On June 15, however, the girl sought treatment at University Malaya Medical Centre after developing flu and fever.
She was referred to the Sungai Buloh Hospital the same day and yesterday was confirmed as the first locally transmitted case.
When asked if the government would enforce the “social distancing” measure in Petaling Jaya, which has a population of over half-a-million people, he said for now the ministry would monitor the 20 people for signs of the virus.
“We are first looking at the severity of this local transmission before resorting to any social distancing,” he said.
The social distancing measure, which is warranted under the National Influenza Pandemic Preparedness Plan (NIPPP) bans all public gatherings and forces schools as well as other learning institutions to close.
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican on Friday in warning those who had contact with confirmed cases or show symptoms of the flu to identify themselves, had said that one local transmission of the virus was enough to impose the measure in the whole district.
Dr Ismail in a statement announcing Malaysia’s first local transmission, said that it was crucial that confirmed patients provided complete information including that of their contacts, so that steps could be taken to prevent any local transmission.
Action, he said could be taken against those who failed to do so under Disease Prevention and Control Act 1988 (ACT 342).
Malaysia is now officially one of the 23 countries from 76 nations with confirmed cases, which has local transmission of the virus.

Private doctors called to take action on dengue

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Private doctors, whether in hospitals or clinics, will toe the line and report all suspected and confirmed dengue cases to the Health Ministry.
The Federation of Private Medical Practitioners' Association of Malaysia (FPMPAM) has directed all private medical practitioners nationwide to report confirmed and suspected dengue cases immediately.
The National Association for Private Medical Practitioners also informed doctors that even in situations where clinical diagnosis was uncertain, they should send all patients to the nearest government hospital or healthcare facility for further tests.
"This is best so that doctors will not be exposed to the severe consequences in the form of a fine, jail term and or the possibility of lawsuits," said FPMPAM president Dr Steven Chow.
He said in the early stages of dengue, clinical signs and symptoms were similar to most viral infections, and that specific blood tests (for the disease) did not become positive until after the second or third day of the illness in the majority of cases.
Dr Chow also pointed out that in some cases, the disease would progress to Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever (DHF) or even to Dengue Shock Syndrome (DSS), which was unpredictable and could occur even in patients who were hospitalised and on standard treatment protocols.
"DHF and DSS are very severe disease states. The DSS has a high mortality rate of up to 20 per cent even when treated in the best medical centres."
Dr Chow said the FPMPAM viewed seriously the worsening state of the dengue epidemic in the country, as confirmed by the ministry.
Association of Private Hospitals of Malaysia president Datuk Dr Jacob Thomas said they were also concerned about the rise in dengue cases and deaths, and had always cooperated with health authorities to contain the problem.
On Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai and Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican's call for private clinic and hospital doctors to notify suspected dengue cases to the ministry, Dr Thomas said members told him they had always complied with this.
He said some private hospitals also worked with state Health Department directors to conduct joint dengue awareness campaigns and exhibitions and distribute leaflets to the public.
Dr Thomas also said private hospitals were cooperating with the ministry on the influenza A (H1N1) issue by alerting health authorities of any suspected cases.

Combined war on dengue

Star: PUTRAJAYA: The Health Ministry will set up 500 more volunteer teams by the end of the year to fight dengue, doubling the Government’s efforts to curb the spread of the disease.
This comes in the wake of the 23,057 notified dengue cases, with 57 deaths, recorded between Jan 1 and June 13 this year.
Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the teams, under the guidance of health officials, would take part in gotong-royong projects to clean up areas, especially flats, where the incidence of dengue was high.
“Keeping the surroundings clean and getting rid of breeding places for aedes mosquitoes is the way to check dengue.
“Awareness of dengue is there, but the culture of keeping the environment clean or translating knowledge into action is not there,” Liow said on Tuesday.
The teams, dubbed Communication for Behavioural Impact (Combi), began as a World Health Organisation initiated programme.
There have been 559 teams since the pilot project took off in Johor Baru in 2001.
Liow said the war against dengue should be on everyone’s mind.
Apart from gotong-royong, which would be on a regular basis and not just when there was an outbreak, Liow said the teams would also embark on public health education programmes.
The ministry’s target was to have at least one team in each village in the country, he added.
Meanwhile, Federation of Private Medical Practitioners’ Association of Malaysia president Dr Steven Chow, in a statement yesterday, urged all private medical practitioners to heed warnings and directives from the ministry to help control dengue.
He said even when patients could not be diagnosed with certainty, doctors should still send them for further tests at government hospitals to rule out dengue fever.
Private clinics that do not report suspected and confirmed cases of dengue fever to the nearest government hospital will face action from the ministry, including a fine of RM5,000 and possible lawsuits.
Liow earlier said reports had to be made so that fogging could be carried out in the areas where infections occurred.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Parliament: Law allows quarantine of passengers

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry has issued quarantine and monitoring orders on passengers who travelled on the same flights as those who have tested positive for Influenza A (H1N1), Datuk Rosnah Abdul Rashid Shirlin told the Dewan.
The Infectious Disease Prevention and Control Act 1988 and the International Health Regulation 2005 were used in enforcing these orders, the Deputy Health Minister said.
To identify the passengers, the Ministry would get the list of passengers and crew members from the airlines and the health declaration forms from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport health office, she said.
The health district office would then inform the passengers and issue the quarantine/ control order to them, she said in response to Nurul Izzah Anwar (PKR-Lembah Pantai).
Nurul Izzah had asked about the procedures and steps taken by the Ministry’s National Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre to contain the infection since passengers on flights MH 091 and AK 5358 were not required to report themselves for quarantine.

A (H1N1): First locally-transmitted case confirmed

Star: PUTRAJAYA: A 17-year-old girl admitted at the University Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) has been confirmed as the first person who has caught Influenza A (H1N1).
The girl was in contact with a confirmed patient who had returned from Melbourne on June 10 although she herself -- the 19th confirmed case in Malaysia to date -- had not visited any countries with confirmed cases of the flu.
She was coughing, one of the symptoms of the flu, at 9pm last Sunday and began developing a fever the following day, the Health Ministry said in a statement.
She went to UMMC that morning and was subsequently referred to Sungai Buloh Hospital at 10am.
During investigations, the girl reported that she had had contact with the student who returned from Melbourne, the 12th positive case, last Saturday.
She was however not declared as a contact by that person.
This resulted in the current case not being monitored and quarantined and as a consequence, another 20 people had been in contact with her and have been exposed to the flu virus.
Besides the girl, four other people were also confirmed over the last 24 hours to have caught the flu. They are all imported cases.

Dengue patients to go into special wards

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: All suspected dengue cases will no longer be placed in general wards with other patients.
Director-General of Health Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said from now on, all suspected dengue cases will be placed in special wards or bays managed by a dedicated group of trained doctors and nurses.
The patients would be monitored very closely during the first 24 hours from the onset of the fever because this was the time when their clinical condition could deteriorate.
"A dedicated team would pick up the early warning signs faster and institute appropriate treatment, such as fluid resuscitation or admitting the patient to the Intensive Care Unit," he said during the NSTLive session at Balai Berita yesterday.
He said although the dengue situation had not reached an alarming state, the concern was for the large number of cases and preventable deaths this year, especially in Selangor.
Between Jan 1 and June 13, this year, he said 23,056 dengue cases were reported nationwide with 57 deaths compared with 18,894 cases and 39 deaths during the same period last year.
He said 66 per cent of the deaths could have been prevented if patients had come in early for treatment.
He said that despite all that had been done by the ministry, including getting cooperation from the relevant ministries and relaying messages through the media, the public had not yet been motivated enough to take the action the ministry would like them to.
"Malaysians should know there is no specific treatment for dengue fever and the only way to get rid of the problem is to get rid of the mosquitoes and breeding sites."
The ministry's "10 minutes a week" campaign, for example, is aimed at getting everyone to inspect their homes once a week for at least 10 minutes, to get rid of breeding sites inside and outside the house.
Dr Ismail attributed the increase in dengue cases to global warming because it increased the activity of the vector mosquito.
He also said the health ministry's enforcement team would go hard on those who breed mosquitoes instead of letting them off with a warning.
"We have given enough warning to flouters of the law and we will go hard on them. We just hope there is no interference from anybody when we bring errant people to book."

Final warning for doctors to act on dengue cases

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry is getting tough with doctors who have stubbornly refused to alert authorities to dengue cases.
Frustrated at being ignored by private hospitals and clinics, Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai warned yesterday that those who fail to report dengue cases would be slapped with a compound fine of RM5,000.
“There will be no more warnings after this. We have been sending circulars to them on a regular basis and we have identified the clinics and hospitals that have not reported the cases. Today, we will send out the circular for the last time,” Liow said.
Liow said the clinics and hospitals had to inform district or state health departments immediately so that fogging could be carried out in the affected areas.
“If they don’t inform us, we cannot take action and dengue will spread. It is against the law not to inform us.”
The Health Department will also take a tough stand against owners of premises found to have Aedes mosquito breeding grounds.
Liow said even residential areas, schools and construction sites found to contain Aedes mosquito breeding grounds would be fined.
Although the number of cases in the past week had dropped from 719 to 630, Liow said it was only temporary due to the hot weather.
“Mosquito eggs can withstand the dry weather and last up to six months and hatch when it rains. So getting rid of the breeding grounds has to be done now.”
Forty-six “dengue hotspots” have been identified nationwide.
Selangor had the highest number of cases — 11,948 incidents so far this year, compared with 7,390 cases during the same period last year.
Selangor accounted for 39 of the 57 deaths this year.
Liow, who launched an antidengue campaign at Sekolah Rendah Jenis Kebangsaan (C) Tsun Jin in Kampung Pandan yesterday, said he would work with the Education Ministry to enforce the Communication for Behavioural Impact (Combi) programme in all schools.
Combi is a voluntary programme where students clean up their school premises to prevent Aedes mosquito from breeding.
With the school programme running, Liow said Combi may be introduced at construction areas.
“We have received complaints that construction areas have many breeding grounds, so we are going to educate the workers so they know their role in keeping their workplace safe from the disease.”
Liow also launched a new television advertisement campaign, which began airing yesterday, to get the people more involved in the fight against dengue.

Decision on new measures today

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: The technical committee on influenza A (H1N1) chaired by Director-General of Health Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican will sit for the fifth time today to decide on the introduction of new stringent measures to be put in place in view of the World Health Organisation's recent declaration of a H1N1 pandemic.
"When we want to introduce new stringent measures, we must discuss with all the relevant authorities whether they are in agreement with the decisions.
"If they are in agreement and find it necessary, then we will make the announcement," he told the New Straits Times.
He said any decision reached will not inconvenience the rakyat but would take into consideration national security.
Dr Ismail expressed concern on local transmission of the disease with more imported cases being reported.
"The more imported cases we have, the more likelihood there is of it being locally transmitted."
When this occurs, he said more stringent measures must be put in place.
The director-general said the technical committee will decide today on the screening of passengers on board aircraft arriving from countries reporting local transmissions and high number of confirmed cases.
If the technical committee decides on the screening, then aircraft arriving from these countries would be allowed to land but passengers would have to remain on board until health authorities screen and give them the green light to disembark from the plane.
Anyone found with fever or other symptoms of the disease would be referred immediately to one of the designated hospitals for further diagnosis. If the person was confirmed positive, the ministry will decide on the next course of action, which includes home quarantine.
Dr Ismail said although the disease was very contagious, the severity of it was considered moderate.
However, he added, Malaysians should not be complacent as the second wave of the disease may come with a vengeance.
When this occurs, he said, the situation may not be controllable.
Dr Ismail stressed that the current H1N1 pandemic was a kind of "grace period" for all countries to check their capabilities, readiness and resources in handling a major pandemic.

Screening for all at airports

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Health screening facilities will be placed permanently at all international airports soon.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said as the number of "imported" influenza A H1N1 cases kept rising, it was vital to ensure no passenger was allowed into the country without being screened.
"We used to have a problem with transit passengers because they could enter the country without being screened. Now, we hope to screen everyone."
Of the 18 confirmed cases here, Liow said the ministry was tracing all those who had come into contact with them.
"We are trying not to miss anyone, or the virus will spread. Those who feel sick should get treatment at once."
Liow said the Inter-Ministerial Meeting to address the spread of the virus will be held tomorrow, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yasin.
Health Director-General Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican confirmed that a man from the Philippines became the 18th person to be warded with H1N1 in the country.
The sailor, working on a Malaysian ship, arrived at KL International Airport from Manila at 4.30pm on June 14 via flight MH705.
He was found to have fever and cough and was referred to Kuala Lumpur Hospital where doctors confirmed on Monday that he had been infected.
Dr Ismail said the ministry was tracking down all the passengers on board flight MH705, adding that they should contact the ministry at 03-88810200 or 03-88810300.
Of the 18 confirmed cases, nines are being treated in hospitals, including Hospital Sungai Buloh, Hospital Tengku Ampuan Afzan, Kuantan, Pahang and Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.
Fifty-two others are under home quarantine, but none have shown any symptoms.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Five new cases, flu panel to meet

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry is holding its first inter-ministry influenza committee meeting on Friday, as the country recorded five new cases of influenza A (H1N1) today, the highest number recorded in a single day.
The health authorities are now bracing for more cases and struggling to prevent local transmission of the virus.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said he would chair the meeting at the Health Ministry in Putrajaya to be attended by the relevant ministries and government agencies.
"The committee, which is part of the National Influenza Pandemic Preparedness Plan (NIPPP) will discuss and coordinate various measures, including the possiblity of introducing new measures as recomended by the WHO (World Health Organisation)," he said here yesterday.
This morning, the health authorities confirmed three more cases involving all males -- a Malaysian student returning from holiday in Manila, a British tourist and a Malaysian student returning from Melbourne.
The three are now being treated in isolation wards at Sungai Buloh Hospital in Selangor and Tengku Ampuan Afzan Hospital in Kuantan, while their families are placed in quarantine.
The passengers and crew members who were on their flights are being traced.
Two more cases were confirmed yesterday afternoon -- a 14-year-old female student from the United States, who came to visit her relatives in Sabah, and a 24-year-old Malaysian woman who had visited Melbourne between June 4 and Saturday.
They were warded at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kota Kinabalu and Sungai Buloh Hospital respectively.
The inter-ministerial Influenza Pandemic Committee, which coordinates all efforts to prevent the outbreak of the H1N1 was activated after WHO declared H1N1 as a worldwide pandemic on Thursday.
The latest H1N1 viral strain -- a combination of the previously circulating animal and human strains -- emerged in Mexico in April and has since been confirmed in 83 countries.
Malaysia has, so far confirmed 17 cases and no local transmission.
It means the disease has not spread locally and the virus has been quickly contained at the carrier level, but health authorities are struggling to ensure it does not spread locally.

Mandatory screening possible

NST: SEREMBAN: The Health Ministry may resort to mandatory screening of all passengers from selected foreign countries even before they alight from the aircraft if cases of influenza A (H1N1) continue to rise in the country.
Director-general of Health Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said if necessary, they would station health officials at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport to immediately take the temperatures of all passengers onboard selected aircraft.
This will be done even before they are allowed to disembark.
"If our officials find any of the passengers with a relatively high temperature or showing any other relevant symptoms, we will take immediate action."
He said such measures were necessary as more and more cases were being diagnosed daily.
"We have to do what is necessary to curb the situation," he said after launching a book entitled The Miracle of Love by Naveen Yawanarajah here yesterday.
Dr Ismal said to date, there had been no cases of local tranmission.
"However, if we start getting reports of local transmission, we will have to implement social distancing.
"That will mean that schools may have to close."

Five more ‘imported’ flu cases

Star: PUTRAJAYA: Health authorities have confirmed five more cases of “imported” Influenza A (H1N1), bringing to 17 the number of confirmed cases in the country.
They involve a 12-year-old boy, a 25-year-old British tourist, a 16-year-old student from Melbourne, a 14-year-old American schoolgirl and a 26-year-old woman who had gone to Melbourne for a holiday.
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said the boy had spent five days in Manila before arriving here on Saturday on board Malaysian Airline flight MH705 (seat 15E).
The British tourist, meanwhile, arrived last Monday via flight EK342 from Dubai, spent a night in a hotel in Kuala Lumpur before proceeding to Pulau Tioman via Berjaya Air J8190 (seat 5A) on Tuesday.
Both cases were confirmed positive on Sunday, Dr Ismail said yesterday.
Meanwhile, the 16-year-old student from Melbourne had arrived here on Saturday at 7.30pm on board Jet Star Airline 3K687 (seat 4A) from Singapore and records showed that he had travelled from Melbourne to Sydney on Tuesday before flying to Singapore on Friday via Qantas QS319 (seat 30D).
He said the American schoolgirl, meanwhile, had arrived in Kota Kinabalu onboard MH385 on Saturday at 6.10pm and was referred to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital after screening showed she had symptoms of the flu.
In the last case, he said, the woman had arrived from Melbourne on Saturday via Air Asia X D72723 at 7.15am and went to the Sungai Buloh hospital for treatment on Sunday when she developed a fever.
All the three cases were confirmed positive for the flu yesterday.
Health authorities are currently tracing crew and other passengers of flights J8190 which arrived in Pulau Tioman at 4pm on June 9, MH705 which arrived at KLIA at 7.05pm on Saturday and Jet Star Airlines 3K687 which arrived 25 minutes later.
The authorities are also tracing the crew and passengers of flights MH385 which arrived in Kota Kinabalu on Saturday at 6.10pm and Air Asia D7 2723 which arrived at the LCCT on Sunday at 7.15am.
Those who were on board these flights should call the Health Ministry at 08-888 10200 or 03-888 10300 for medical advice.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Travellers should practise self-quarantine

NST: PUTRAJAYA: Travellers from countries with reported influenza A (H1N1) cases have been advised to limit their movements for at least seven days from the day they arrive in Malaysia.
Director-general of Health Tan Sri Dr Mohd Ismail Merican advised those who had just returned from abroad to do the same thing.
"But if they begin to show influenza symptoms, they must seek treatment immediately and not get involved in any social activities or mingle with other people.
"This is to prevent local transmission," he said in a statement yesterday.
Dr Ismail also cautioned the public to keep abreast of the latest information about the cases via the Health Ministry's website (www.moh.gov.my) and announcements made by ministry officials from time to time.
In the last 24 hours, 42 people with influenza symptoms who had returned from affected countries were reported.
Of the number, 16 had been admitted to the isolation wards of four hospitals for treatment and investigation, and 26 placed under home quarantine, Dr Ismail said.
The number of confirmed cases in Malaysia remains at 12, with no new cases reported in the last 24 hours. Malaysia has not reported any case of local transmission.
Dr Ismail said of the 12 cases, five were still receiving treatment at hospitals -- one each at Sungai Buloh Hospital, Tuanku Jaafar Hospital in Seremban and Kuala Lumpur Hospital and two at Penang Hospital.
"All of them are showing good response to the anti-virus treatment given."
He said the number of people placed under home quarantine was 123, with none having shown influenza symptoms.
The ministry has appealed to all "contacts" of those tested positive with influenza symptoms, including airline passengers and crew members, to call the ministry at 03-88810200 or 88810300.
"This is to enable us to render health advice accordingly, including the need for home quarantine."
He said according to the World Health Organisation, as at 8am yesterday, there were 29,960 influenza A cases from 74 countries, with 145 deaths.
An additional 133 cases were reported from eight countries in Australia (67), China (22), the Philippines (19), Hong Kong (11), New Zealand (nine), Korea (three), Malaysia (one) and Vietnam (one).
The ministry is also seeking the cooperation of Malaysian students overseas who intend to return for the summer holidays to postpone their journey home if they have influenza symptoms.
They are advised to get treatment before returning to Malaysia and to report to the medical team at Kuala Lumpur International Airport if they are unwell.

Avoid shaking hands and wear a mask, Liow advises people

Star: PETALING JAYA: Don’t shake hands – that’s the advice given by Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai to those having influenza-like symptoms.
This is to minimise the risk of having the Influenza A (H1N1) virus from being transmitted locally.
People are, instead, advised to bow their heads in greeting or place their right hand on the upper left side of their chest to show respect.
Although there has been no recorded cases being transmitted locally, Liow urged those with flu-like symptoms to wear masks and refrain from shaking hands with others.
“It’s best to take all necessary precautions as the viral outbreak has reached pandemic level,” he said in an interview yesterday.
“During such moments of medical crisis, it is okay to not shake hands. People can instead bow their heads or place a right hand on the upper left chest to show respect,” he said.
However, Liow pointed out that the ministry could only advise Malaysians.
“We cannot force people to stop shaking hands with others,” he added.
The minister also called on the people to not alienate those wearing masks, saying:
“Generally, Malaysians are not comfortable wearing masks in public because others tend to avoid them.
“We are trying to drive home the message that it is okay to be near a person wearing a mask as it is a protective gear aimed at reducing the risk of transmission of such diseases.”
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Mohd Ismail Merican said it was up to individuals to exercise caution to minimise the risk of transmitting communicable diseases.
He said Malaysia had to date recorded 12 confirmed Influenza A (H1N1) cases.
“Of the 12 cases, five are warded at designated hospitals – Hospital Sungai Buloh (one), Hospital Tuanku Jaafar in Seremban (one), Hospital Pulau Pinang (two) and Hospital Kuala Lumpur (one),” he said.
The health authorities had received 42 case notifications involving individuals who had recently returned from the affected countries.
“Of the new suspected cases, 29 have been confirmed negative. We are still waiting for the results of 13 others,” he said, adding that home quarantine was imposed on 123 people.
Dr Ismail also called on those who had come in contact with individuals who had been confirmed suffering from the flu, including cabin crew and flight passengers, to contact the ministry at 03-8881-0200 or 03-8881-0300 for advice on precautionary measures and home quarantine.
As of yesterday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recorded 29,960 flu cases, including 145 deaths in 74 countries.
Dr Ismail also advised people to wear surgical masks if they come into close contact with those with flu-like symptoms at shopping malls, movie theatres and other enclosed public places.
It was best to avoid congested places and badly ventilated areas, he added.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Health D-G missing the point, say docs

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The Federation of Private Medical Practitioner’s Association of Malaysia is concerned over the comment by Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican that doctors, particularly private practitioners, be blamed for the dengue endemic in Malaysia.
The federation’s medical affairs committee representative Dr Ng Swee Choon said in a statement that it agreed with Dr Ismail that there was no excuse for doctors or hospitals not reporting confirmed cases of dengue.
He said the federation had been advising all private doctors to do so.
“If all private doctors were to send all cases of viral fever to the government hospitals and laboratories, will the system be able to cope?” he asked.
Dr Ng said prevention was the key in controlling dengue fever and what was really needed was a sustained effort to eradicate mosquito-breeding grounds.
“These were within the private properties of big companies which the public had no access to. Complaints to local authorities often fell on deaf ears.
“Unless there was a political will to take enforcement measures on the many big developers and the local authorities, blaming the private doctors was just missing the point.”
Dr Ng said patients should be aware that in the early stages of dengue fever, the signs and symptoms were common to all viral infections.
He said early symptoms like fever, bone aches, joint pains and pain behind the eyes were common in many viral infections. None of the symptoms was special to dengue alone, he said.
“Most dengue fever patients recover with almost no therapy and without the benefit of special blood tests, the diagnosis may never be made. Adequate rest and lots of oral fluid consumption to prevent dehydration is important. Patients are usually asked to see doctors regularly for monitoring and follow-up.
“By the time the full-blown rash of bleeding into the skin comes, it is often serious. We do not think that any reasonable doctor would miss that diagnosis,” he said.