Friday, July 31, 2009

Minister blasts doctors who continue to treat pandemic lightly

Star: PETALING JAYA: Doctors must adhere to the Health Ministry’s directives on influenza A (H1N1) and be especially alert when treating patients with pneumonia, said minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.
He said they must be more vigilant and careful as the world was facing a pandemic.
Liow was commenting on complaints that general practitioners and even private hospitals were not identifying and handling possible influenza cases properly.
Two of the four influenza deaths were patients who were treated by general practitioners and private hospitals.
“I am upset,” he told The Star yesterday after appearing as a guest on The Star Online Live Chat at the newspaper’s Studio V here yesterday.
A visibly angry Liow said it was common sense for any doctor to test for the virus so they would be able to exclude the possibility of individuals with severe pneumonia having A (H1N1).
Liow said the ministry had stepped up its fight against the disease.
“We hope doctors and nurses will co-operate with us.”
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said doctors who continued to ignore ministry guidelines for the flu would be hauled up by the ministry’s Disease Control director.
“We are not punishing them. We will find out why they are not adhering to guidelines,” he told a press conference after opening the National Clinical Immunology Symposium at Marriott Hotel yesterday.
He urged doctors to get computers so they could look up updated information on the guidelines relating to the disease on the ministry’s website.
Dr Ismail said doctors could not refuse patients’ request for throat swabs if their flu persisted after a few days of home quarantine.
“With normal flu, you should get better in two or three days,” he said.
He was responding to two complainants, who related their personal experience at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital where doctors and medical practitioners had refused their requests for throat swabs to be taken.
Dr Ismail said the four deaths in the country where victims delayed seeking treatment or where doctors failed to detect the infection early were sad episodes.
“It means that there was poor sense of alert,” he said.

Liow: Don’t take flu lightly

Star: PETALING JAYA: Influenza A (H1N1) in Malaysia has turned deadly and the people need to increase their guard against the disease that has claimed four lives in the country so far, Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai warned.
He said the public had the impression that the influenza was not deadly and that they could easily recover from it if infected.
“That is why they do not have any urgency to take more precautionary measures. But now I want to take away the perception that it it is mild.
“The public should know that it can cause death and we already have four so far,” Liow stressed.
He had been asked what the main problem was in controlling the spread of the influenza in Malaysia during an interview in The Star Online Live Chat in Studio V at 1 Utama shopping centre here yesterday.
Liow said the public would be more compelled to take precautionary measures such as washing hands, wearing masks to prevent transmission and practising social distancing if they understood the dangers of the virus.
Nevertheless, he said the country was handling the pandemic well despite having more than 1,200 cases and the ministry had managed to slow down the transmission rate.
“We are still at a stage where the influenza is spread in clusters and not at a sustained local transmission level whereby patients are infected continuously,” Liow said.
On the possibility of a second wave hitting the world due to the coming winter season in the northern hemisphere, he said the World Health Organisation had warned against it but nobody knew what to expect.
“We do not know how it will develop, especially since it is a new virus. Currently it has a low mortality rate of 0.4 to 0.5% but its transmission is from man to man, which is very fast,” he said.
“Even at a low mortality rate, the number of deaths may increase and this is our worry. A lot is unknown and we will need to conduct more research and be prepared. We cannot take this for granted,” Liow said.
On the influenza vaccine that is expected to be ready by the end of the year, Liow said the ministry planned to purchase it for frontliners first as it was very costly to provide vaccine for the entire population.
“At the moment, it would cost us RM7mil for 200,000 doses. We will see how the pandemic spreads. If the vaccine can prevent the spread, then we will consider vaccinating everybody,” he said.
Liow added that all vaccine production firms must ensure that the medicine would be safe for consumption and that the companies should ask for a warranty or guarantee from the supplier.
“If there is even one death caused by the vaccine, the consumer can sue the company,” he said.
After the interview, Liow told The Star that the ministry would set up more laboratories to test the influenza A (H1N1) virus.
“We need more facilities,” he said, adding that labs would be set up at the state level to test for the virus.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

More needs to be done to fight dengue, say experts

Star: NILAI: A gathering of the country’s top health practitioners here resulted in the Nilai Declaration of 2009, which, among others, calls on the Health Ministry and local councils to find a better way to fight the dengue scourge.
The 300 experts at the National Dengue Conference also called on the Government to encourage more scientific research into more effective ways to combat dengue.
The participants from universities, research insititutes and NGOs said environmentally-friendly ways must be found to get rid of the disease-carrying mosquito.
When closing the conference, Health deputy director-general (public health) Datuk Dr Ramlee Rahmat said the people needed to be more aware of the dangers of dengue fever as the number of cases kept on increasing.
“The ministry has formulated various strategies to fight dengue but we need the people to work with us if we are to reduce the number of cases,” he said.
Dr Ramlee said 26,446 cases and 64 fatalities were reported since January this year.
The ministry, through the National Dengue Strategic Plan (2009-2013), hoped to reduce the number of cases by 10% every year.
“Our target is that there should be no new cases in localities two weeks after the first case is reported. If there is a new case, it means that our efforts to reduce the number of cases in that locality has failed,” he said.
Asked if the authorities were working towards producing a vaccine for dengue, Dr Ramlee said such efforts were ongoing.
“I have been told that a vaccine manufacturer from the West is conducting clinical trials in Singapore and Vietnam.
“We do not know if the vaccine will work. It can take between five and 10 years before a proper vaccine can be produced,” he said.
Dr Ramlee said the most effective way for the time being was for the people to treat the menace seriously and to constantly clear potential mosquito-breeding grounds.

Clinics, hospitals on high alert for pneumonia cases

Star: PUTRAJAYA: Medical practitioners at clinics and hospitals must be on high alert on the possibility of pneumonia cases being caused by the H1N1 virus.
This was one of eight recommendations by the National Pandemic Preparedness Plan technical committee yesterday.
“Some doctors leave it to nurses to take specimens. Doctors must take them themselves. It involves diligence, responsibility and professionalism,” Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said.
He said that in the most recent case, the doctor had a ‘low index of suspicion’ of H1N1 when the patient had severe pneumonia with c-morbid factors.
“After four deaths, doctors should be more alert,” he said, adding that doctors must get the patient’s medical history.
Dr Ismail said pneumonia cases, particular severe ones, should be tested for the flu virus as the illness could lead to pneumonia among ‘vulnerable groups’ such as diabetics and people who were obese, those with chronic respiratory problems and low immunity.

Other recommendations:
> Severe pneumonia patients should have throat swabs taken for H1N1 and begin anti-viral treatment.
> Suspected severe pneumonia cases caused by H1N1 should be given a double dose of anti-viral treatment, which is 150mg BD for five days.
> Influenza light illness (ILI) cases can be treated at home but symptoms of pneumonia such as breathing difficulties, chest pain and patients’ alertness level should be monitored.
> Laboratory tests for H1N1 to be extended to hospitals at state level.
> Twenty-one private hospitals have been supplied with anti-viral drugs.
Health Ministry statistics showed that as of yesterday, the number of reported H1N1 cases stood at 1,266, including the four deaths. Local infections have surpassed imported cases with 692 and 574 cases respectively.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A(H1N1): Malaysia records 4th death, more schools closed

Star: PUTRAJAYA: A 20-year-old woman suffering from Influenza A(H1N1) died on Tuesday, the fourth person to die in Malaysia due to the virus, while more schools and campuses were closed when students exhibited flu-like symptoms.
The woman, who had contracted the virus through a local transmission, died at the Malacca Hospital from “severe community acquired pneumonia” at 9.40am.
Health Ministry director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said the woman, who had suffered from obesity, had only sought treatment at the hospital on July 26, 11 days after contracting the disease.
She suffered clinical complications on July 27 and a throat swab was taken on Tuesday.
“The deaths reported affected victims between their 20s and 40s. They had early symptoms but sought treatment late and doctors did not suspect that they were infected by H1N1.
“This is discomforting to the Ministry,” he said after chairing the National Pandemic Preparedness Plan technical committee meeting here Wednesday.
Asked why the ministry was not alerted on the case on Tuesday, he said the doctor had only discovered she had H1N1 infection after her death.
Dr Ismail said he was informed of her death after the Institute of Medical Research got the results on Wednesday morning.
On whether the ministry would take action against hospitals for failure to detect H1N1 cases early, he said, “We don’t want to resort to the blame game. We advise patients to go to hospitals if they have symptoms.”
He said members of the public were still taking H1N1 lightly even after four deaths, adding that the latest victim had not heeded to her parents’ advice to go to the hospital for early treatment. He also said that doctors should be more alert.

In TANJUNG MALIM in Perak, Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris has been closed for seven days starting Wednesday after an unconfirmed number of students showed flu-like symptoms.
State Health Committee chairman Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon said the concerned students had been sent to the Tanjung Malim Hospital for a check-up.
Those who have exhibited symptoms have been quarantined on campus, while thousands of other students have been sent home.

In GEORGE TOWN, three schools and a university campus were also affected.
Penang Health, Welfare, Caring Society and Environment Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh confirmed that the MRSM Kepala Batas and two classes at SK Kepala Batas were closed, starting Tuesday, for a week.
“The other two are the Universiti Sains Malaysia engineering campus near Nibong Tebal and Jit Sin A Primary School in Bukit Mertajam which are closed starting today (July 29) for a week,” he said Wednesday.
He did not reveal the numbers of students infected but said they were “cluster cases of influenza-like illness.”
According to the Health Ministry’s statistics, as of July 29, the number of reported H1N1 cases stood at 1,266 including the four deaths. The number of local infections has surpassed the number of imported cases at 692 and 574 cases respectively.

It's all about quality therapy

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: It has been 20 years since occupational therapists in Malaysia spoke about setting up a council to register and license those in practice.
Occupational therapy -- a form of rehabilitation to improve a disabled person's ability to perform daily activities and to be independent at work and leisure -- has not been organised to preserve and maintain quality.
Consultant physiotherapist and Universiti Putra Malaysia associate professor Nathan Vytialingam sees how big an impact this will have on patients.
"People are trying to produce more therapists, but the question is, what about the quality? Once you have quality therapists, patient care will be better. It's just like going to a certain doctor, because we know the doctor is well trained," he said.
The proposed council, Nathan said, should have functions similar to the Malaysian Medical Association and the Bar Council when it comes to registering practitioners.
"We have been talking about this for 20 years now and it's not been done yet. This is something that needs to be looked into seriously. We have lecturers coming from overseas, but they don't need to register with a council. It's all about check and balance."
This, he said, would keep an eye on those who might not have the expertise they claim to have.
"I have heard of therapists who come from overseas, some even from Europe, claiming to be specialists in children. How do we know they are experts in therapy for children? The patients do not know this."
Nathan added that it was important to pass an allied healthcare act to regulate therapists who want to practice.
"It is not just about renewing licences. They need to go for professional development courses and get updated on the latest (information) in the field. Someone can be sitting in a shop and be practising without updating themselves with the latest information. That is dangerous for patients."
Malaysian therapists follow a Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct under the Malaysian Occupational Therapists Association.
Nathan, a past president of the association, added that Malaysia was slowly moving towards arming therapists with a bachelor's degree qualification to increase the number of registered therapists, which now stands at just 400.
While there are 21 colleges and universities offering physiotherapy courses, only two universities have degree programmes for occupational therapy. Another private college is expected to begin a course next year.
He said although more countries in the region had overtaken Malaysia in the number of degree courses offered, it was heading in the right direction.
But leaving it to be freely conducted without a proper accreditation board to look into the standards of these courses, Nathan said, was a cause for concern.
"There is a need for licensing because if you visit some of the colleges, you won't find Malaysians. They're mostly, or all, foreign lecturers. I am not against foreigners because some of them are very good. But there is a need to monitor it."
Although the current programmes are accredited, there is a lack in seeing how well the education and knowledge gained by students translate into community-based occupational therapy practice.
"Standards need to be set. We have accreditation and it is easy to accredit something theoretically, but we also need to go to the ground to see what is happening and update ourselves.
"At the end of the day, we are just trying to maintain the quality, so people will realise that occupational therapists are a group of trained professionals and the community will benefit from it."

H1N1 situation getting worse

Star: PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia has recorded its first influenza A (H1N1) related death from a local transmission, signalling a worsening of the situation in the country.
The 42-year-old man, who died on Monday, was the third death caused by the virus.
Two earlier deaths were linked to imported cases involving a 46-year-old Malaysian man who worked in Belgium, who died last Sunday and a 30-year-old Islamic finance student from Indonesia who died on July 21.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the third victim was reported to have died of severe pneumonia with multi-organ failure at 4.40pm on Monday after being treated for 10 days in a private hospital in Kuala Lumpur.
He said the victim had received outpatient treatment from several private clinics and hospitals since July 6 before being referred and admitted to the private hospital on July 18.
“He was diagnosed as suffering from diabetes mellitus and chest X-ray showed that he also had pneumonia,” he told a press conference yesterday.
Liow said the victim was transferred to the intensive care unit after suffering breathing difficulties and requiring a ventilator but his condition continued to deteriorate.
A throat swab taken on July 22 confirmed that the man was H1N1 positive.
“The swab was taken very late on July 22. All three victims died in the hospitals and now we’ve found out that the treatment came to them very late. I’m very concerned.”
Liow said he had directed all private clinics and hospitals to be more vigilant and to be on high alert as well as have the anti-viral drug, Tamiflu, to handle the H1N1 cases.
“Everyone must be responsible. We are already at level six. If you have flu and cough, take it seriously,” he said, adding that the death risk for those infected with H1N1 was 0.4% to 0.5%.
He advised the public to wear masks, take care of their personal hygiene and to practice social distancing if they were having sore throat and cough.
He said those with flu-like symptoms must go to the hospital and if confirmed to have the H1N1, to take Tamiflu.
Asked whether local users had suffered side-effects after taking Tamiflu as experienced by some foreign users, Liow said: “No. Not in Malaysia.
“At the early stage, the Health director-general had warned the public not to simply take Tamiflu. Take it only when you have the symptoms.”
He also said 95 new local H1N1 cases were reported yesterday making the total number thus far to 1,219.
Of the figure, 53% or 645 are local infections while 47% or 574 are imported cases.
“Local transmission cases have exceeded imported cases. Our local infections is spreading so fast throughout the country with 19 new clusters. This is a bad sign,” Liow said.

Malaysians consume 26 teaspoons of sugar every day, says CAP

Star: GEORGE TOWN: Malaysians consume an average of 26 teaspoons of sugar per person daily, revealed a 2005 survey. And early this year, the country was ranked the world’s eighth highest sugar user.
In the 70s, Malaysians only consumed 17 teaspoons of sugar per person per day.
Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) president S.M. Mohamed Idris said the consumption might have increased further by now, as the last research was done in 2005.
He said Malaysians consumed sugar in the form of, among others, soft drinks, condensed milk, flavoured drinks, junk food and even breakfast cereals. A CAP survey revealed that some drinks and food contained 10 teaspoons of sugar in one serving.
Idris said a brand of orange juice contained 40.8 teaspoons of sugar in a two-litre pack while a brand of cordial syrup had 200 teaspoons in a two-litre bottle.
He also said former Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Shahrir Abdul Samad revealed earlier this year that Malaysia was the eighth highest sugar users in the world.
He said the International Diabetes Institute recorded Malaysia as having the fourth highest number of diabetics in Asia with 800,000 cases in 2007, which was expected to increase to 1.3 million in 2010.
“Sugar is linked to over 60 ailments such as cancer, diabetes, obesity, heart problems, osteoporosis, kidney problems, asthma and allergies.
“According to the Health Ministry’s statistics, 11.6 million of the 16 million adults nationwide are sick with a non-communicable disease like diabetes, hypertension or cancer.
“Malaysia has the most overweight and obese people in Asia with 54% of the adult population either being obese or overweight,” Idris told a press conference at CAP office yesterday.
“Thus, CAP calls on the Government to work with food manufacturers to avoid sugar in their products,” he added.
He also urged the Government to make it a requirement for manufacturers to graphically display the sugar content in their products by the number of teaspoons as well as colour labelling with red, orange and green indicating the sugar level as high, medium or low respectively.
“The Government should also stop advertisements of highly-sugared drinks and food during children’s television viewing hours, and educate schoolchildren and the public on the dangers of excessive sugar intake,” Idris said.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Second H1N1 death in Malaysia

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: A 46-year-old Malaysian man who worked in Belgium has died from influenza A (H1N1), making him the second fatality in the country since the flu outbreak.
He was reported to have died from “severe pneumonia with respiratory failure with septicaemic shock and acute renal failure” after being treated at the intensive care unit of a private hospital in Subang Jaya for a week.
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Mohd Ismail Merican said the victim had returned to Malaysia on July 4.
“He was all right until he went for a holiday with his family in Langkawi on July 13 where he developed fever and cough.
“On his return from Langkawi, he sought treatment at a private hospital in Petaling Jaya on July 16 where his chest X-ray showed that he had pneumonia,” he said in a statement issued here yesterday.
Dr Mohd Ismail said the man was then referred to the private hospital in Subang Jaya on July 19 and was warded at the ICU.
Tests conducted by the Institute of Medical Research on July 22 on a sample taken from the man’s throat confirmed that he had been infected with the H1N1 virus.
“Complications developed and the man died at 12.35pm yesterday (on Sunday),” he said.
On July 21, a 30-year-old Islamic finance student from Indonesia died from H1N1.
Dr Mohd Ismail said the latest fatal case was among seven cases categorised as sporadic or isolated.
Six other local cases in the same category included three who were warded – one for pneumonia and the others being a pregnant woman and a young student.
The other three are from one family and they received outpatient treatment.
Dr Mohd Ismail also disclosed that 49 new cases were reported yesterday, all involving locals, bringing the total number to 1,124.
Of the figure, 574 were imported cases.
He said 1,103 cases (98%) had recovered while another 10 were being given anti-viral treatment.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Flu virus spreading in clusters, says Liow

Star: JASIN: The influenza A (H1N1) virus is spreading via clusters at institutions of higher learning and schools, Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said.
Seven colleges in Malacca were ordered to close after 70 confirmed cases were discovered among students in the past week.
A religion learning centre in Kuantan and a school in Tangkak have also been closed because of the flu.
“There are only clusters at the universities, polytechnics and schools and not at the community level such as in housing estates or villages,” he told reporters after opening the Merlimau Health Clinic here yesterday.
Liow said measures taken by health authorities have so far managed to prevent the virus from spreading on a sustained basis at the community level.
“We hope the measures we have taken will enable us to control the situation,” he said.
Besides UiTM Lendu in Alor Gajah which was ordered to close on July 16, other institutions ordered to close temporarily were the Institut Kemahiran Mara Jasin, Politeknik Kota, Maktab Perguruan Perempuan Melayu, Kolej Yayasan Melaka, Kolej Professional Mara and Kolej Kejururawatan Nilam.
Liow said only nine of the 70 students were still undergoing treatment at the Malacca Hospital.
He said there were 39 new cases of the flu yesterday. There are 978 recorded nationwide H1N1 cases to date, of which 958 patients have recovered after treatment. Twenty were still undergoing treatment in hospital.
In Tangkak, SM Tun Mamat was ordered to be closed for four days after 345 students and several teachers fell ill.
In Kuantan, four students from Maahad Tahfiz Pahang, a religious learning centre in Tanjung Lumpur, on Thursday tested positive for the A (H1N1).
In Kota Kinabalu, a second school was ordered closed after a few students were suspected to have contracted influenza A H1N1.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Two states without cancer specialist

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: The shortage of oncologists in the country should be looked into to ensure prompt treatment of cancer sufferers.
Presently, there are only about 50 of these specialists in Malaysia despite cancer being the country's third biggest killer disease.
States like Perlis and Kedah do not have such specialists and Malaysian Oncological Society president Datuk Dr Mohamed Ibrahim Wahid said this has resulted in non-oncologists dabbling in specialised cancer treatments like chemotherapy.
He added that their lack of indepth knowledge, especially about the latest developments in the field, was causing much anxiety among cancer patients.
Dr Ibrahim, who is consultant clinical oncologist and medical director of Wijaya International Medical Centre, was speaking to reporters after delivering a talk on "The Multi-targeted Approach to Renal Cell Carcinoma", organised by Pfizer Malaysia, recently.
He said any anti-cancer drug or treatment, including chemotherapy, is safe if administered properly under an oncologist's supervision.
"In the case of renal cell carcinoma or kidney cancer, a disease that afflicts 2.3 out of 100,000 males and 1.2 out of 100,000 females in Malaysia, I have seen patients who had been told by non-oncologists that there was no treatment for it."
Dr Ibrahim said he had been able to keep alive a 60-year-old patient with end-stage kidney cancer for four years through targeted therapy using a new drug. This patient had earlier been told by non-oncologists that nothing could be done but to wait for his death.
"This patient was given a new lease of life and was able to continue a normal life for an additional four years.
"There are currently three drugs available in the country to treat kidney cancer which afflicts people of 40 years and above although there is no cure yet for it," he said.
Although the drugs were very costly, he said patients should not shy away as they could still apply for its use under the patient assistance programmes offered by hospitals.

Nation’s first A(H1N1)-related death

Star: PUTRAJAYA: The nation had its first Influenza A (H1N1)-related death Thursday.
An Indonesian patient died of underlying conditions and health authorites said the cause of death was cardiac arrest.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the 30-year-old first-year student from the International Centre for Education in Islamic Finance, Kuala Lumpur, had died from cardiac arrest due to ventricular fibrillation (irregular heart rhythm).
“The Influenza A (H1N1) was not a direct cause of his death,” he said at a press conference.
The patient went back to Indonesia for a holiday and returned to Malaysia on July 5 and was reported to be suffering from a mild fever and cough, he said.
On July 21, the patient fainted while waiting for his medication after consulting a doctor at a private medical centre in Kampung Baru, Kuala Lumpur, Liow said.
He was given emergency treatment but he passed away at 11.50am. “A post mortem was carried out at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital on the same day and the results showed that the patient was obese, had pneumonia, an enlarged heart and liver and pus-like material at the bottom of the trachea,” he said.
Liow said 20 specimens had been taken to carry out virology, bacterialogy, histopatology, bio-chemical and toxicology tests.
The virology and bacteriology tests on lung tissues and the trachea showed the presence of Influenza A (H1N1). “We are still waiting for other test results and the cause of death will be confirmed once all the tests are completed,” he said.
Liow said 25 staff members of the medical centre were ordered to self-quarantine themselves for seven days while seven of his room mates and study group were identified and one of them had sought treatment for influenza symptoms.
The ministry also carried out health checks yesterday at the college, he said.
Eighteen new cases were reported yesterday and 17 of them were the result of local transmissions and one imported where a Malaysian had returned from London.
From the local transmissions, 13 were from four clusters in Malacca while the rest were isolated cases.
In Kuala Terengganu, Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) campus in Dungun will cease classes for a week when several of its students were tested positive for the virus.
In Malacca, three colleges were ordered to be closed for a week. They are Maktab Perguruan Perempuan Melayu in Durian Daun, Kolej Professional Mara in Jalan Hang Tuah and Kolej Yayasan Melaka in Bukit Sebukor.
Several students of the women training college were placed under quarantine at the dorms by health authorities since Monday.
A check at Kolej Professional Mara in Jalan Hang Tuah and Kolej Yayasan Bukit Sebukor revealed that classes had been called off.
In Sabah a school in the Lahad Datu district was shut down yesterday after two students were tested positive for the virus. Another 108 students were quarantined at the school hostel.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Varsity, RMC closed for a week

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Universiti Pertahanan Nasional Ma-laysia (UPNM) and the Royal Military College (RMC) in Sungai Besi have been closed for a week after 274 students showed signs of an influenza-like illness.
In Shah Alam, a class at SRK Subang Bistari has been closed until Monday after 15 of its 43 pupils displayed influenza-like symptoms.
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said 207 students at UPNM and 67 at RMC had been quarantined.
Unaffected students have been advised to self-quarantine themselves at home and to practise social distancing from the public until further notice.
He said officials at both institutions had agreed to close their premises from 5pm until July 28.
"We were alerted by officials from UPNM and RMC yesterday after several of their student showed signs of an influenza-like illness.
"When we went there today (Tuesday), we found many students down with such symptoms. We advised them to close down both facilities and they agreed," Dr Ismail said when contacted by the New Straits Times yesterday.
He said UPNM had 1,874 students and 497 staff while RMC had 414 students and 310 staff.
"All the affected students have been placed in quarantine and monitoring at the UPNM and RMC medical facilities. No one has been admitted to government hospitals as they only showed mild symptoms of the disease."
He said those unaffected had been advised to inform the Health Ministry should they experience influenza-like illnesses later.
Ismail said Health Ministry officials had taken throat swabs from affected students.
"We expect to have the results of the samples by 9pm today (Tuesday)," he said.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the Year 5 class at SRK Subang Bistari would be closed until Monday.

After 24 hours of no new influenza A (H1N1) cases, the ministry yesterday reported three new cases, of which two involved people entering the country and one local transmission.
To date, the country has recorded 877 H1N1 cases.
Some 862 patients have recovered, while another nine are getting treatment at hospitals.
The remaining six are in home quarantine.
As of 8am yesterday, the World Health Organisation reported 136,536 H1N1 cases with 761 deaths in 156 countries.
Namibia became the latest country with H1N1 infections.
Liow said Malaysia will not be able to declare itself free of H1N1 any time soon because of the worldwide pandemic.
"We cannot relax and take this lightly.
"It is still serious and can spread if we don't take any mitigation measures," he said after opening the Association of Private Hospitals of Ma-laysia International Healthcare Conference and Exhibition at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre yesterday.
He said the ministry was focusing on treating patients warded in hospitals while those with mild influenza-like symptoms were being quarantined at home.
"We are taking random samples from infected people. We can't do it for every patient as our resources will be stretched to the limit."

Council to promote medical tourism

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has set up a one-stop centre to promote the country's medical services and facilities abroad.
The Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC) will be the primary agency to promote and develop the country's health tourism industry as well as position Malaysia as a healthcare hub in the region.
The council will be established as a department within the health ministry. It will report to an advisory committee chaired by the health minister and co-chaired by the minister in the Prime Minister's Department responsible for the Economic Planning Unit.
The committee, which will be responsible for policy-related matters, will comprise representatives from the government and private sector involved in health tourism.
Health minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the cabinet had agreed on July 3 to the ministry's proposal to set up the council.
"We now have a specialised body to champion and promote medical tourism," he said after opening the Association of Private Hospitals of Malaysia International Healthcare Conference and Exhibition at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre yesterday.
The number of foreign patients coming to seek treatment has increased from 39,114 in 1998 to 374,063 last year.
Revenue from foreign patients' hospital bills also rose from RM14.1 million in 1998 to RM299.1 million last year.
The majority of patients are from Indonesia, the Middle East and Australia, coming for medical check-ups, and cardiac or ortho- paedic treatment.
Despite the influenza A (H1N1) pandemic and a global recession, the government is projecting a 10 per cent growth for the industry.
Liow said medical tourism was a large industry identified as one of the growth sectors.
He said MHTC would also promote medical, dental and eye treatment and would be a corporate entity after three years' of operations.

Haze-related illnesses soar among children

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: The haze has brought about an increase in the number of children seeking treatment for respiratory problems and chest infections especially in the Klang Valley.
According to Kuala Lumpur Hospital consultant pulmonary and critical care physician Datuk Dr Jeyaindran Sinnadurai, the situation was still manageable but could worsen if the haze worsened.
He said those with underlying respiratory illnesses such as asthma and bronchitis should not forget their medication.
He added that if the illness worsened, they should seek immediate medical attention.
"The haze can cause upper and lower respiratory tract infections, conjunctivitis or 'red eye' and sore throat. This is due to dust particles and the presence of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide."
He said both coarse and fine particles could irritate the eyes and respiratory tract, causing runny nose, phlegm, coughing and wheezing.
"Air pollution can lead to a runny nose. Throats get dry and itchy and mucus develops. It could end up clogging the respiratory tract, leading to infection."
Serdang Hospital head of paediatric department Dr Norrashidah Abd Wahab said the hospital had seen an increase in the number of children aged 5 and below coming in with upper and lower respiratory tract infection since early this month.
She said their two paediatric wards, each with 28 beds, were now fully occupied, with 80 to 90 per cent of admissions due to haze- related problems.
"We are seeing a 20 to 30 per cent increase in admissions since the second week of the month."
Paediatric neurologist Dr Malinee A.Thambyayah of Pantai Hospital said she had handled children coming in with complaints of allergic rhinitis, tightness in the chest, clogged noses and dust allergy.
"My own daughter is suffering from throat irritation," she added.
The doctors advised Malaysians not to stay outdoors for long periods and to wash their hands and face as soon as they came indoors.
The public should also:
- bathe regularly to get the dust out of the face and body;
- reduce outdoor activities, including physical exercise; and,
- drink plenty of fluids.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Digital filing system plan for govt hospitals

Star: KLANG: A total of 121 of 135 government hospitals will have a digital filing system to speed up the retrieval of patient records, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.
“I notice that there are still many hospitals using conventional filing to keep records and they spent up to 15 minutes to look for them. It is too long.
“If we use digital filing, we can retrieve the information accurately and instantly,” he told a news conference after visiting the Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital here yesterday.
Liow said the Government would have to plan carefully for a digital filing system rollout because it was expensive.
Old hospitals like Kuala Lumpur Hospital and Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital would be installed with the system first if the Government decides to follow through with the plan, he said.
At present, only 14 hospitals have a digital filing system including those in Serdang, Selayang, Putrajaya, Ampang and Sungai Buloh.
“It takes time to migrate from a manual system to a digital system. In Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital alone, 14 cabins are being used for storing medical records ... this is a huge amount of records,” he said.

Friday, July 17, 2009

UiTM to close as new H1N1 cases surface

Star: MALACCA: The Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) campus in Lendu, Alor Gajah, was ordered to close temporarily following the spread of the influenza A (H1N1) virus to nine more students.
Confirming that the order was made by the Health Ministry, UiTM vice-chancellor Tan Sri Prof Dr Ibrahim Abu Shah said some 5,000 students were informed by university officials late yesterday that they would be given a nine-day break until July 24 in an attempt to prevent further infections.
“We are complying with the ministry’s order in an effort to prevent the situation from getting serious here,” he said.
Dr Ibrahim said parents would be allowed to fetch their children around the clock.
“Students living in and around Malacca would be allowed to leave immediately while those from elsewhere would be allowed to stay on until their parents pick them up,” he added.
Last Sunday, Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai confirmed that four UiTM students in Lendu tested positive for the virus and that the university would be ordered to stop classes temporarily if further transmissions occurred.
The nine UiTM students were part of the 10 new cases of A (H1N1) recorded yesterday, the last one being a patient at the Sungai Buloh Hospital. It marks the first time where all new cases in a day were caused by local transmissions.
In Kuala Lumpur, Liow described the situation at the UiTM campus as “alarming.”
“I am upset that the situation in Malacca is expanding and have directed Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican to personally attend to the matter,” he said yesterday.
Meanwhile, health officials were seen going into the campus yesterday before the order to temporarily close the university was issued.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Prepare business continuity plans, says Health D-G

Star: PUTRAJAYA: The corporate sector and government agencies should prepare business continuity plans to ensure essential services are available in the event of the influenza A (H1N1) spreading.
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said the plans would guarantee that services such as banking services and petrol are available and not cause inconvenience to consumers.
Among the guidelines for business continuity are screening for influenza symptoms and daily temperature check among employees, contractors and visitors.
Others include allowing employees with flu symptoms to be excused from work and determining fitness to return to work based on company policy.
“Employees with flu symptoms should be allowed to stay home so that they do not infect others with the virus,” he told a press conference after chairing the 9th technical committee meeting for influenza A (H1N1) here yesterday. The framework for the preparation of a business continuity plan is available on the ministry’s website
He also urged patients to wear masks when seeking treatment at hospitals and clinics to prevent spreading the virus to medical officers.
Dr Ismail said the country recorded 21 new influenza cases, of which seven were imported and 14 were locally transmitted. Twenty patients received outpatient treatment while one patient received treatment at the hospital for dehydration.
To date, there are 825 cases with 562 imported ones and 263 local transmissions.
Dr Ismail said 25 patients were being treated at hospitals while 97 received outpatient treatment.
“The remaining 703 or 85.2% of them have recovered from the disease.”
He said the situation at UiTM Lendu, where six confirmed cases were reported, was under control and there was no new cluster cases reported in the past 24 hours.
Sekolah Rendah Sulaiman 1 in Kuala Terengganu and three classes at SMK Mantin, Negri Sembilan, SM Aminuddin Baki and SK Intan Baiduri in Kuala Lumpur ended their quarantine yesterday.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Frontliners to be vaccinated first

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Some 200,000 frontliners -- doctors, nurses, the police and immigration officers -- will be the first to receive the new influenza A (H1N1) vaccine when it is available here.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said Malaysia was currently in talks on the right dosage, amount and cost with World Health Organisation (WHO)-dedicated firms in the United States and Europe.
"Once we get the fully-licensed vaccine, we will first focus on our frontliners for immunisation," he said after attending a graduation programme for Epidemic Intelligence Service here yesterday.
He was responding to a WHO statement that the flu was unstoppable and recommended immunisation of health workers once it was available.
Frontliners worldwide are placed as high-risk group who come into contact with infected patients first and therefore, might transmit the virus to others.
Other high-risk groups are children, pregnant women, and those with chronic health conditions, including asthma and renal failure.
Acknowledging that "the virus is here to stay", Liow said the ministry would isolate serious cases while others with mild H1N1 would be asked to self quarantine at home for a week.
"Except for schools where children are more sensitive to the outbreak, we will contain the virus by closing down the school or the infected classroom."
In Putrajaya, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said 696 patients or 86 per cent of the 804 confirmed H1N1 cases nationwide had recovered from the infection.
The ministry recorded 32 more cases in the past 24 hours yesterday, of which 12 were local infections and the rest, imported cases.
"There has been no report on clustering of infection cases within the past 24 hours, and the last H1N1 cluster case reported was the group of six Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) students in Malacca who got infected.
"These six patients are now receiving anti-viral treatment while 60 of the UiTM students are in home quarantine," he said, adding that the infection outbreak was under control.
Ismail also said the three schools that were shut down to avoid the clustering of H1N1 cases would resume classes as usual today.
The three schools are Sekolah Kebangsaan Sultan Sulaiman 1, Kuala Terengganu; Sekolah Menengah Aminuddin Baki, Kuala Lumpur, and SK Intan Baiduri, Gombak.

Dying from dengue's second wave

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Alarm bells are ringing in the Health Ministry as more dengue patients are dying within a day of admission to hospital.
Most are children and those aged 20 to 30, and doctors believe they may have come down with dengue a second time after the first bout went untreated. Sungai Buloh Hospital consultant infectious disease physician Dr Suresh Kumar believes some may not have shown symptoms and had become carriers of the disease, while others may have had the fever and left it untreated.
The disease strikes with deadly force the second time as patients were virtually defenceless, he said, and many people come in very late for treatment.
Pregnant women are in particular danger from dengue as it could affect the foetus.
"If you have a fever, see a doctor. If the fever persists for two days or more, check for dengue. Insist on a full blood count, and haematocrit and platelet count tests."
The white blood cell count of a person with dengue falls rapidly as the disease progresses. A rising haematocrit count is a marker of plasma leakage in dengue infection and helps to differentiate between dengue fever (DF) and dengue haemorrhagic fever (DHF). The test results can be obtained in two hours.
He said doctors should pay particular attention to people showing symptoms of dengue and recognise early deterioration.
He warned that some people may not show symptoms during the four to seven-day incubation period for dengue.
He said patients typically developed sudden high grade fever, often accompanied by among others, facial flushing, generalised body ache and headache, sore throat, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting.
The Health Ministry came out with clinical practice guidelines on "Management of Dengue Infection in Adults" last year for all doctors to use in the detection, management and treatment of DF and DHF, he said.
And patients who go in to hospitals or clinics with fever are now given a special card so doctors who may treat them later have all the information they need.
The number of reported DF and DHF cases has increased from 44.3 cases per 100,000 people in 1999 to 181 cases/100,000 in 2007. This exceeds the target rate of 50 per 100,000.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Chua sticks by clinics' dispensing

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Former health minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek believes that the current arrangement bet- ween doctors and pharmacists should be maintained. He said separation of duties could see costs going up as well as causing inconvenience to the patient.
"While the number of pharmacists has increased and the shortage of pharmacists is not as acute as five years ago, we have the problem of distribution of pharmacists since most of the pharmacists are in major towns.
"Most pharmacies do not operate 24 hours. How is the patient going to get his medicines at night?"
He was commenting on the ongoing debate over whether the country is ready for a separation of duties in the prescription and dispensing of medicines by the two professions.
Dr Chua also said in most medical practices, the dispenser was not a trained pharmacist.
"They are trained just to read the doctor's prescription and dispense the medicines, often with no idea about the functions and side effects of the drug being dispensed.
"This may not be the most ideal conditions to dispense medicines. However, in the Malaysian context, it has served us well with minimum cost and hassle."
Dr Chua said some pharmacists unfortunately did not function professionally and they sold medicines without a proper prescription.
"Most pharmacists would not even bother to tell the patient of the side effects of the drug.
"In fact, the patient hardly has any opportunity to interact with the pharmacists in a pharmaceutical outlet.
"What is worse is that some pharmacists also branch out into other healthcare activities that should be the domain of the doctors."

Friday, July 10, 2009

More measures to curb H1N1

Star: PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia is switching to a more serious level in its handling of influenza A (H1N1) cases from merely containing these to mitigation.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said under the mitigation stage, measures would be implemented to slow down infection within the country while mild flu cases would be given outpatient treatment.
He said the public should reduce outings and gatherings with friends and families, particularly if they were suffering from influenza symptoms, and continue to practise cough etiquette and personal hygiene.
Abnormal absence of staff at workplaces should also be reported to the ministry to be monitored and ensure that this had nothing to do with the spread of the virus, added Liow.
“We have to change our strategies and be more proactive in dealing with this matter.
“However, the public should not panic because most cases are mild,” he said, adding that if the local transmission of flu cases were not controlled, the virus could spread rapidly and involve cases with other complications.
“Under this stage, only high-risk groups, including those people with asthma, chronic respiratory illnesses, diabetes, organ failure, obesity as well as pregnant wo-men will be hospitalised,” said Liow, adding that home quaran-tine would only apply to those showing influenza symptoms.
“Therefore, we urge the public to cooperate with us,” he told reporters here yesterday after 12 workers at a private company in Cyberjaya and six trainees at the Malaysian Maritime Agency in Malacca had tested positive for the virus.
“These cases show that the disease is spreading within the communities,” he said.
Liow added that the spread of the virus at the Cyberjaya firm started from Friday and an investigation by the ministry showed that the company had been receiving foreign visitors.
As at 8am yesterday, 61 new influenza cases – 37 imported and 24 locally transmitted – had been reported.
“The new cases involved 52 Malaysians and nine foreigners – five from Indonesia and one each from Thailand, Brunei, Singapore and Pakistan,” Liow said.
He added that out of the 574 people infected, 472 or 82.2% had recovered and been discharged from hospitals.
Currently, 102 patients are still receiving treatment.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Biggest jump in number of flu cases

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Forty-eight new cases of influenza A (H1N1) cases were reported yesterday — 40 imported cases and eight local transmissions.
It was the biggest jump in cases in a day after the 38 cases a day earlier.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the imported cases were people who had visited Australia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore and China.
The total number of cases increased to 244, with 206 imported cases and 38 local transmissions, he said.
Despite the increase in the number of infections, the situation was under control and the country was safe for tourists, Liow said after briefing the MPs on the influenza A (H1N1) situation at the Parliament lobby.
The number of cases in Malaysia, he said, was still small compared with other countries.
Of the 244 cases, 128 had recovered and had been discharged from the hospital.
Malaysia was still in the containment stage and the quarantine procedure remained only for those who had been in contact with those infected, he said.
The ministry did not impose travel restrictions but Malaysians were advised against going to countries with many cases of the flu.
He said land entry point checks were being tightened in the country while double screening was carried out on tourists arriving from infected countries — first as they stepped off the plane and again at the immigration counter.
On those going to Saudi Arabia for pilgrimage, he said they were already required to take seasonal flu vaccines.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

A(H1N1): Don’t play down its seriousness, says Liow

Star: PUTRAJAYA: Malaysians cannot afford to take the spread of Influenza A(H1N1) lightly just because there have not been any deaths linked to it here yet, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.
Liow said his ministry was growing worried with increasing talk among the public that there was nothing to worry about since hospitals had successfully treated all the cases so far and had kept fatality rates at zero.
He said it was true that the percentage of fatalities worldwide from the flu was low at just 0.44% as compared with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the Avian Flu or Influenza A(H5N1), which had fatality rates of 9.6% and 61% respectively.
However A(H1N1) has spread much more quickly and has infected a lot more people worldwide, he said, so even with the much smaller percentage of fatalities it is capable of causing more deaths than the other diseases.
“We cannot afford to let down our guard and the public must continue to cooperate with us to control and manage its spread or we will start seeing a wider spread and possible deaths,” he told a press conference here Wednesday.
He said the situation in Malaysia was still under control and he did not intend to cause panic among the public and tourists, but it was important to make people aware of the severity of the flu.
On Monday, Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen urged the media to play down reporting of the A(H1N1) virus, saying that “energetic” coverage of the pandemic flu had greatly impacted tour booking numbers to Malaysia.
She said Malaysia’s major tourist markets such as China, Korea, Taiwan and Japan had experienced between a 20% and 90% drop in travel bookings to the country in the past two weeks.
Liow meanwhile also refuted claims by certain quarters that Malaysian authorities were placing all visitors to the country under quarantine.
He said officials at airports would take throat swabs if visitors showed symptoms linked to the flu, but only placed them in isolation wards at designated hospitals if they tested positive; those who tested negative were free to leave.
He said even if an airplane passenger tested positive, only those seated three rows in front and three behind the confirmed case were placed under quarantine.
“We are not trying to turn away visitors with our stringent checks, but instead we are sending the message to them that they can be assured we are taking all necessary steps to ensure their safety by controlling the spread of the flu,” he said.

Preparedness plans
On the Influenza A (H1N1) Techical Committee meeting Wednesday, Liow said it decided to ask all companies to come up with contingency plans on how they would manage their operations should a number of their staff in a particular section be infected with the flu.
“In the current slow economic situation we do not want companies to be caught off-guard when their employees are tested positive or placed under quarantine, and have to face the possibility of ceasing operations.
“We hope all companies, large or small, will come up with their own Pandemic Preparedness Plan to help them cope and continue operations in any eventuality,” he said.
Liow had earlier announced that 38 new cases -- 33 imported and five local -- had been reported, bringing the total now to 196.
He said 25 of imported cases involved Malaysians while the others were foreigners from Indonesia (five), and one each from Sweden, Palestine and Argentina.
The 30 had come to Malaysia from Australia (11), Indonesia (seven), Britain (four), Singapore (three), Thailand (three), and one each from the United States, the Philippines, Argentina, Cambodia and China, he said.
Of the five locally transmitted cases, he said, three were students aged between 18 and 16 who were placed under quarantine following the closure of Sekolah Menengah Tsu Jin in Cheras on June 29 due to an outbreak there.
The other two cases involve a 19-year-old student at an institution of higher learning and 29-year-old employee of a private firm.
During the press conference Liow also announced that a new website -- -- that was aimed at providing information on the flu and latest updates was operational.
The ministry has also opened four new phone lines that will operational from 8am-9pm daily: (03) 8881 0200/ 0300/ 4414/ 4415.
It has also decided to allow the Sunway Medical Centre, Sime Darby Medical Centre, Gleneagles Intan Medical Ccentre, Prince Court Medical Centre and the Pantai Hospital Kuala Lumpur and 29 clinics to take throat swabs for testing.