Monday, August 31, 2009

No cases of new flu strain in Malaysia

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

Saturday, August 29, 2009

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

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

Friday, August 28, 2009

Liow: Provide flu feedback

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

Thursday, August 27, 2009

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

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

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

H1N1: Toddler is victim number 70

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

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sarawak to have its own flu-testing laboratory

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

Use hand sanitisers to prevent spread of virus, says Liow

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

Friday, August 21, 2009

Liow: Treat all patients with influenza

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

569 new A(H1N1) infections

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

Thursday, August 20, 2009

‘Avoid public places’ advice for those with flu symptoms

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

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Expert: Case fatality rate not that high

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

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Face masks now a price-controlled item

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

Ministry to hire more private docs

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

Monday, August 17, 2009

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

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

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Three more H1N1 deaths reported, says Ismail

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

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Too many confusing messages

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

Clinics not keen on stocking up Tamiflu

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

Friday, August 14, 2009

Anti-viral drugs at early stage of the flu

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Anyone with flu-like symptoms and with high fever that persists for more than 48 hours should now be treated with anti-viral drugs, Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said.
The Health Minister said this was a change from the previous policy of prescribing the drugs only when patients showed symptoms and were suspected to have contracted the A (H1N1) virus.
He said the ministry had directed all public and private hospitals to administer immediate treatment to these patients.
Liow said there were three groups involved — those with influenza-like symptoms and suffering from underlying medical conditions; with symptoms and high fever that persist for more than two days; and those who tested positive for In-fluenza A (H1N1).
To reduce congestion at public hospitals, he said private hospitals had been told to conduct rapid tests on patients.
“We urge doctors to give seven days’ medical leave if the patient is tested positive,” he said, and advised those who received treatment to isolate themselves and wear masks.
Liow said 98% of all A (H1H1) patients recovered, but the concern was for those in the high-risk group who needed immediate treatment.
The death rate among those infected was 0.1% and this was not above the fatality rate in other countries, he added.
Liow said there were seven deaths since Aug 7, and they were aged between four months and 92 years. All had high-risk factors - severe pneumonia, diabetes, heart disease, low immunity and congenital disease.
There was one death last Friday, two on Monday, and four on Tuesday. According to information from the ministry, except for one, all the patients had severe pneumonia.
He said a total of 51 patients, confirmed with the virus, were being warded, with 29 others admitted to the intensive care unit.
Of the 29, 16 were in the high-risk group with 12 suffering from chronic diseases.
Asked if those who are obese would be in the high-risk group, the minister said “only if they had low immunity”.
Liow said it was not practical to temporarily close down schools when there were cases.
“If we declare a school closed, there might be another case and the school would be closed again,” he said, adding that students might also contract the disease outside the school.
Asked if schools should declare early school holidays when exams were over, Liow said it was up to the Education Ministry to decide that.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A(H1N1): 6 more deaths, total fatalities at 44

Star: PUTRAJAYA: There were six more Influenza A(H1N1)-related deaths reported on Wednesday, bringing the total number of fatalities in the country to 44.
The latest deaths involved a 10-month-old girl, a one-year-old boy, an 18-year-old pregnant woman, a 24-year-old man and two other men in their 60s, Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said here on Wednesday.
He also said that schools with suspected cases should not close entirely unless they could not function due to a high incidence of teachers or students being infected or under quarantine.
Liow said the principals of such schools would have to determine if this were the case, following advice from the state health director and after informing the state education director.
Liow also warned suppliers and traders not to indiscriminately increase the prices of facemasks and hand sanitisers to exploit the demand, adding that stern action would be taken against such profiteers.

Don't take pandemic lightly, says WHO rep

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: At least 20 to 30 per cent of the Malaysian population are expected to be infected with influenza A (H1N1).
As such, the World Health Organisation said the government must come out with a comprehensive plan to better handle the situation with sufficient human resources, medical facilities, equipment and medication.
WHO representative for Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore, Dr Hans Tieru, said: "There will be many severe cases and many will die.
"Malaysia, just like other countries around the world and region, must be prepared to handle the burden."
Many will need hospitalisation and intensive care treatment. He added Malaysians cannot take the current pandemic lightly and be complacent as it was spreading rapidly, infecting thousands and killing many every day.
In Malaysia, he said, the number of confirmed cases and deaths was rising and causing concern. Another 270 new cases and six deaths were reported within the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of cases in Malaysia to 2,253 with 38 deaths.
"This pandemic is still evolving and the new virus is expected to be around infecting people for at least a year or more. We are definitely going to see many people around the world being victims of this new virus. The reality is the pandemic will not stop soon," he told the New Straits Times.
He said there were people, including those in Malaysia, who think that the pandemic will stop soon, thus taking a very relaxed approach and not heeding the advice of health experts.
"Let me warn you, it's going to be around for more than a year. We are going to see an increasing number of more severe cases and deaths."
Commending the government and health ministry for their untiring effort taken in the containment and mitigation phase to reduce local transmissions, he said the government was doing its part to reduce or delay the spread.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Flu fatalities climb to 32

Star: PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia reported six more deaths related to Influenza A (H1N1), bringing the total number of fatalities to 32.
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said there was one death on Sunday while two people succumbed to the disease last Wednesday. Three patients died on Saturday.
It was only now confirmed that the five had died of A (H1N1) following post-mortem, he said, adding that the deaths were officially reported to health authorities on Sunday.
“Four of the victims had underlying risk factors,” he said. “In the last 24 hours, 203 new cases were reported, of which 15 were treated in Intensive Care Unit and 67 patients are in the isolation wards,” he said yesterday.
To date, the total number of reported cases in the country stood at 1,982. Globally, 208,155 people have been found to be infected by the virus and 1,688 people from 174 countries have died.
Dr Ismail advised those who showed symptoms and in the high-risk groups to seek medical attention, adding that anti-viral treatment was effective on patients who began treatment within 48 hours of showing the flu symptoms.
High-risk groups include children who are below five years, senior citizens 65 years and above, children and youth under 19 who have been taking asprin for long-term, pregnant women, those who suffer from athsma, cronic lung disease, organ failure, cardiovascular, liver and blood system diseases, diabetic, obese people and those with low immunity.
“Those who show light symptoms should be given symptomatic treatment, stay at home and limit their interaction with others.”
In Perak, state Health committee chairman Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon said another institution - the Mara Junior Science College in Lenggong - had been ordered to close.
A total of 41 schools and institutions in Pahang have been closed but 11 had reopened, Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob said.
“The staff of the state health department are doing their level best to curb the spread of the virus.”

Govt to launch large-scale H1N1 awareness campaign

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The Govern­ment will launch a large-scale public awareness campaign on Influenza A (H1N1) beginning this week to educate the public on the pandemic in view of the worsening scenario in the country.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the Government would also make available anti-viral medicine for the public at hospitals and clinics nationwide.
He said the decisions were made after consultation with Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai and Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican on ways to contain the spread of the pandemic locally.
“The most effective measure is through public education, that is, by educating the public through the provision of guidelines.
“Hence, a large-scale public awareness campaign will be held to provide such guidelines,” he told reporters after opening the National Heart Institute’s new building here yesterday.
To date, the flu has infected 1,983 people and killed 32 locally.
Najib also advised those who had fever to take extra precautions and refrain from going to public places.
“If one has a fever, the best thing to do is to rest at home until one recovers because if one goes out, others may be infected.
“Even in the house, they are advised to wear masks to avoid spreading the virus to family members,” he said.
He added that the anti-viral stock would be increased from the current 10% of the population to 20% involving an additional allocation of RM20mil.
“The Health Ministry, through the hospitals and clinics, will supply the anti-viral drug more widely so that more people can get the injections to help prevent a more virulent strain of the virus,” he said.
Najib said the Government would not impose any travel ban as this was a global pandemic.
Liow meanwhile told reporters later that the ministry was planning to rope in private medical practitioners to help contain the spread of the disease.
Advising the people not to panic, he said:
“The important thing is to control the situation together by maintaining personal hygiene and taking certain steps like self-quarantine, social distancing and getting immediate treatment for the symptoms.”
Last week, Liow ordered all the public and private clinics and hospitals to use rapid influenza screening tests for those who displayed the symptoms as part of the additional strategies to contain the spread.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Sabah warned over private hospital plan

Star: KOTA KINABALU: Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai has cautioned the Sabah government about its plans to set up a private hospital as it is an expensive business.
“I would say that to build a hospital is easy but to maintain or run one is not easy.
“I will say that now, we are already short of manpower in the Government itself. It is a very expensive investment. So, they must be cautious,” Liow said.
Liow was responding to Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman’s announcement that the state was going ahead with plans to refurbish abandoned Wisma Khidmat here and convert it into a hospital at a cost of RM100mil to overcome the bed shortage at Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH), whose tower block had been declared unsafe.
In making it clear that the ministry had its own plans with the purchase of the Sabah Medical Centre (SMC), Liow hinted that the ministry was not keen in getting involved with the state’s plan for a private hospital to assist the QEH.
“If the state is going to build it, then the state must run it and maintain it.
“We have our own plans with the purchase of SMC,” he told reporters after officially renaming Likas Hospital to the Sabah Women and Children’s Hospital here.
He said the RM280mil purchase of the SMC building was in the final stages with the sales and purchase agreement to be signed by the end of the month.
Liow said tenders were also being called for the construction of the QEH twin tower block, which would take at the most 30 months to complete.
He said there would be an additional 600 beds available at the twin tower block.
Earlier, he said the renaming of Likas Hospital was to focus on health care for women and children in Sabah, where mortality rates were higher than the national average.
Liow said there were 28 deaths for every 100,000 mothers and this figure could reach above 60 if foreigners were taken into account.
“We want to push this figure down towards the national average of 10.8 deaths per 100,000,” he said, adding that the child mortality rate was 10.8 deaths per 1,000 births in Sabah, which the ministry hoped to reduce to 6.5 deaths per 1,000.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

A(H1N1): Eight more deaths reported

Star: KOTA KINABALU: The number of deaths from Influenza A (H1N1) virus rose to 26 nationwide on Sunday with the Health Ministry confirming that eight more people have died from the deadly virus.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the deaths, which between Aug 3 to 8, were confirmed to have resulted from the deadly virus following test results. (One person died on Aug 3, two on Aug 5, four on Aug 6 and the last one on Aug 8)
He said the latest eight deaths involved mainly people in the high risk group though there was one 20-year-old college student who was found dead at her hostel about a week after obtaining outpatient treatment at a hospital.
Among the dead are two Sabahans - a 24-year-old obese woman from Ranau who died of pulmonary oedema after a bout of flu and fever while the other involved a 74-year-old man with a history of heart problem who died of pneumonia and pulmonary oedema.
The others deaths were a 47-year-old patient with asthma in Sarawak and a 37-year-old obese male who died of broncho-pneumonia at the hospital in Johor Baru.
Liow said as at Sunday, there were a total of 62 patients warded in hospitals with 13 in the intensive care units, while an additional five were waiting for test results. The Health Minister also said that in Sabah, 402 confirmed cases had been detected, with seven patients still in hospital and one in ICU.
He said 35 schools had also been closed to date.

Utar to offer medical courses soon

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman will be offering medical courses soon which the Government hopes will stem the shortage of doctors in Malaysia.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, who announced this, said that only 53% of all positions in government hospitals for doctors were taken up and the Government was forced to hire 700 contract doctors to fill the void.
He said many facilities including intensive care units and operating theatres were under-utilised because there were not enough qualified staff to run them, thus the need to increase the number of doctors.
“Facilities in local hospitals need to be expanded to cater for more housemen. Not all universities have hospitals to provide training for housemen. We have 135 hospitals but only about 50 of them can cater for housemanship.
“Our target is one doctor to 600 patients. Our current ratio is one doctor to 1,145 patients, so there is a lot of room for improvement,” he told reporters after presenting scrolls to Utar graduates during a convocation ceremony at Wisma MCA yesterday.
The convocation is being held over three days and involves 2,895 graduates.

Baby among three new A(H1N1) deaths

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Three more people including a baby and a child died of Influenza A (H1N1), bringing the death toll to 18.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the 16-month-old baby girl had fever, cough and runny nose for a week before she was admitted to hospital last Sunday.
He said the baby died of severe pneumonia with underlying A (H1N1) infection at Sultanah Aminah Hospital in Johor Baru on Friday.
A five-year-old boy with upper respiratory tract infection, died of encephalitis secondary to A (H1N1) at Tengku Ampuan Afzan Hospital in Kuantan on Friday, said Liow.
He said the other flu-hit victim was a 63-year-old asthmatic patient who died of severe pneumonia and underlying pulmonary tuberculosis.
“He had fever, runny nose and cough for five days before being admitted to Selayang Hospital last Sunday.’’
Liow said the country also recorded 53 new cases, bringing the total to 1,578.
“There are still 64 people warded at the hospital including two babies, two obese persons and a post-delivery mother in the high-risk group.’’
Liow has urged the public to practise good hygiene, avoid crowded places and shun big events.
However, he said the Merdeka celebrations at Bukit Jalil National Stadium this month would be held as planned for now.
“We will screen everyone including participants of the parade and the public before they enter the stadium,’’ he said.
He also called for private medical practitioners to give out masks to flu and cough patients as part of their treatment.
“The vaccine will only arrive by the end of the year. For now, we must prevent the flu from spreading,’’ he told a press conference after opening the Japan Clinic at HSC Medical Centre here Saturday.
Liow also urged local doctors to be more competitive following healthcare liberalisation.
The liberalisation, which is taking place in stages, enables foreign companies to open hospitals and foreign doctors to work in the country.
Liow said the ministry has so far opened up five sectors.

All have role to play to contain A(H1N1), says expert

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The nation will not be able to contain the spread of the Influenza A (H1N1) virus if the public does not take preventive measures like ensuring personal hygiene and imposing self-quarantine whenever necessary.
The onus is on every individual, family and place of work to adopt such measures to help check the flu, which has claimed 18 lives in Malaysia to date.
Dr Christopher K.C. Lee, head and senior consultant physician (infectious diseases) at Hospital Sungai Buloh, said there were many things that were not yet understood about this infection and a concerted effort was needed of all parties to help the situation.
“We need to adjust the guidelines as the pandemic evolves. That can make it difficult for doctors and the public to keep up to date but this is important to ensure appropriate response,” he adds.
Dr Lee said medical experts had since learnt that the virus was transmitted by droplet-spread.
He said if the flu spread sharply, more people would be infected within a short period of time.
“If 2% of 100 patients are admitted, it is only two people; but if it is 2% of one million or 20,000, then it is a lot!”
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said those who are not warded shouldered the responsibility of not spreading the virus.
“Follow the advice of the Health Ministry. It is crucial now for all of us to work together on this – do not take this lightly.
“If you are healthy you may recover, but those in the high-risk group may not. We have to work to stop it before it is too late and goes out of control,” said Liow.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Health Ministry: Use rapid tests to check for flu

Star: PETALING JAYA: The Health Ministry is encouraging the public and private sectors to use rapid screening tests for those with flu-like symptoms.
This was among the additional strategies to battle the spread of Influenza A (H1N1) and to solve the congestion in the public hospitals and clinics.
In a statement yesterday, the ministry said the World Health Organisation recommended the use of rapid tests in assisting clinical decisions and for the rapid screening of cluster outbreaks.
“It must be noted that these tests are only 70-75% accurate,” it said. As this meant a proportion of those infected might test negative, patients whose tests show a negative result should still observe all necessary precautions.
All clinics and hospitals in the public and private sectors could now treat patients suspected of having contracted A (H1N1) with oseltamvir, better known as Tamiflu.
The ministry said it would discontinue the daily reporting of the number of tested and confirmed cases in the country. However, it would continue reporting the number of admitted flu cases and deaths.
Doctors have also been told to be flexible and give patients who showed flu-like symptoms at least a three-day medical leave to minimise the risk of transmission.
Negri Sembilan Health Depart-ment director Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar, who spoke to reporters after a meeting with Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai in Port Dickson yesterday, said employers should also accept these medical certificates.
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican, meanwhile, said a 40-year-old man was the latest fatality from the flu, bringing the death toll to 15.
He said the man, who was obese, was admitted into KL Hospital after suffering from breathing difficulties on Monday and died of acute coronary syndrome with cardiogenic shock (caused by the failure of the heart to pump effectively) two days later.
Johor Health department director Dr Mohd Khairi Yaakub, meanwhile, reported two deaths in the state yesterday which were not included in the national tally.
A nine-year-old girl and a 37-year-old man died at Sultanah Aminah Hospital in Johor Baru yesterday.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Liow: Docs will decide on who to test for H1N1

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: There is no need for people with flu-like symptoms to be tested for the influenza A (H1N1) virus, Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said.
He said it was up to the doctor to decide on the treatment of the patient.
He added that those not in the high-risk group should listen to the advice of doctors and follow the symptomatic treatment prescribed.
“The public need not worry if they are tested or not. Whether you know you have H1N1 or not, what is more important is your symptoms and health.
“We will take the initiative to test for H1N1 when we see that you are in a particular high-risk group. This is our decision now,” he told a press conference after visiting the Sungai Buloh Hospital yesterday.
Currently, he said testing was only available at the Institute of Medical Research here, Sungai Buloh and Kota Kinabalu.
“They can still go to a private hospital for testing. The University Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) has testing laboratories.
“Private clinics do not have the facilities unless they use a rapid test which is not accurate. There is only 80% accuracy,” he said.
He said the three government labs could only handle a total of 1,000 tests per day, adding that the ministry was currently trying to equip state hospitals with H1N1 testing labs to cope with demand.
When asked how can people with flu-like symptoms could be treated, Liow replied:
“For those not in the high-risk group, they are still getting symptomatic treatment. The doctor will prescribe medicine but just not anti-viral medicine.
“These people need to rest, drink more water, practice social distancing and stay away from public activities. They will recover in time,” he said.
Liow said it was important for the public not to panic but they must be on high alert and vigilant on the pandemic.

Hospitals and clinics to get anti-viral drug, says Ismail

Star: PUTRAJAYA: Starting today, all government hospitals, clinics and selected private hospitals will have the influenza A (H1N1) anti-viral drug Tamiflu, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said.
He, however, cautioned that all anti-viral drugs should not be taken as a preventive measure as this could result in the virus developing resistance to medication.
“Pharmacists are also warned not to sell anti-viral drugs to the public without a doctor’s prescription,” Dr Ismail told a press conference here yesterday.
He said that besides all government hospitals and clinics, 22 private hospitals nationwide would be supplied with Tamiflu.
Private clinics would also be allowed to obtain stocks from relevant suppliers.
“The suppliers have given us the assurance that there is sufficient supply of anti-viral medication,” he said.
Dr Ismail also warned doctors not to use anti-viral drugs to prevent a person from getting the flu.
“Not only have such measures been proven ineffective, they will also cause resistance to the medication as reported in the United States, Hong Kong, Mexico, Japan, Denmark and Canada,” he said.
Furthermore, he said the move would also deplete the resources for such medication.
Dr Ismail advised doctors and healthcare practitioners to be vigilant and take precautionary measures to prevent themselves from being infected.
He said that unlike the SARS outbreak where none of the healthcare personnel were infected, the H1N1 flu had caused a few to fall ill.
The death toll from influenza A (H1N1) rose to 14 with the latest casualty being a 57-year-old pensioner who was a diabetic and suffered from hypertension.
He was warded at the Putrajaya Hospital on Tuesday and died of acute pulmonary oedema the next day.
Health authorities also recorded 16 new cases in the 24 hours before 8am yesterday, all being local transmissions, bringing the total number to 1,492.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

A(H1N1): Death toll increases to 14

Star: PUTRAJAYA: Health authorities urged the public not to panic and stepped up measures to contain the Influenza A(H1N1) outbreak as the virus claimed its 14th fatality.
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said that as of 8am Thursday, the death toll had reached 14, the latest casualty being a 57-year-old pensioner who was a diabetic and suffered from hypertension.
He was warded at the intensive care unit at the Putrajaya Hospital on Aug 4 and succumbed to acute pulmonary oedema on Wednesday.
Health authorities also recorded 16 new cases in the last 24 hours; all were local tranmissions with two new clusters reported. The number of people who have been infected in Malaysia stood at 1,492.
Dr Ismail also said that beginning Friday, all government hospitals, clinics and 22 private hospitals nationwide would be supplied with the Tamiflu anti-viral medication. Private clinics would be able to obtain their supply from the relevant pharmaceutical suppliers.
“The suppliers have given us the assurance that there is sufficient supply of anti-viral medication. However, I would like to warn doctors not to use the drugs as prophylaxis or medication to prevent one from getting the flu.
“This is because not only have such measures proven to be ineffective, they will also cause resistance to the medication as reported in the United States, Hong Kong, Mexico, Japan, Denmark and Canada.
“This move will also deplete the resources for such medication. Pharmacists are also warned not to sell the anti-viral drugs to the public without a doctor’s prescription,” Dr Ismail said.
Dr Ismail also said that not all who have developed flu-like symptoms need to be tested for A(H1N1) and urged the public not to panic or feel upset if hospitals send them home without taking throat swabs.
He said only those who were warded in hospitals and in high-risk groups would be tested for the flu.
“The technical commitee had decided on this because each day, the Institute of Medical Research is flooded with at least 500 applications for A(H1N1) tests and 80% to 90% are tested negative.
“We want to prevent wastage and overloading so that the institute can concentrate on detecting genuine cases and conduct tests which are more important and crucial,” he told a press conference Thursday.
Dr Ismail added that apart from conducting tests to confirm Influenza A(H1N1), the IMR was also responsible for looking for new virus strains and determining if the present virus is resistant to anti-viral medication.
He noted that so far, tests to determine both had been negative.
Dr Ismail also advised doctors and healthcare practitioners to be vigilant and take precautionary measures to prevent themselves from being infected with the flu after close contact with patients.
He added that unlike the SARS outbreak where none of the healthcare personnel were infected, the A(H1N1) flu had caused a few to fall ill.
He said the public has an important role to play to curtail the spread and must heed medical advice, especially when asked to go under home quarantine.
“One should not go out when asked to remain at home. Even when inside the house, one should confine himself to a room and strictly minimise contact with the rest of the household.
“I cannot impress enough how important it is for members of the public to be responsible and not to infect others when they are down with the flu, cough or cold, and to maintain high levels of hygiene,” he said.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

A(H1N1): Four more deaths, total at 12

Star: PETALING JAYA: The Influenza A(H1N1) virus claimed four more lives, bringing the total number of fatalities in Malaysia to 12.
Three patients were a three-year-old, a 12-year-old and a 20-year old who all died at the Malacca Hospital on Aug 3, Health Ministry director-general Tan Sri Ismail Merican said on Wednesday.
The fourth was a six-year-old boy who died at 2.30am Wednesday at the Batu Pahat Hospital, the second such death in Johor.
Overall, there were 16 new cases of A(H1N1) infection recorded over the past 24 hours, bringing the accumulated total in Malaysia to 1,476 since the outbreak, Ismail said in a statement from PUTRAJAYA.
He said the three-year-old girl died from severe pneumonia at 4.30pm on Aug 3 after having been confirmed to being infected with A(H1N1) at 6.19pm the previous day, reports IZATUN SHARI.
The girl. who had a history of chronic respiratory tract infection, was warded in Malacca Hospital on July 31 after developing flu and cough symptoms on July 25.
Prior to that, she had received early treatment at private clinics before being admitted to a private hospital on July 30 and later referred to Malacca Hospital.
Dr Ismail said the 12-year-old boy died from severe pneumonia at 2pm on Monday and was confirmed to have been infected with A(H1N1) at 5.50pm on Tuesday.
He said the boy, who suffered from chronic kidney failure and underwent dialysis treatment, was admitted to the hospital on Monday with a fever, cough and breathing difficulties since Aug 1.
“The 11th case involved a 20-year-old man with chronic asthma who was admitted to Malacca Hospital on Aug 2 after having fever, cough and breathing difficulties since July 31,” Dr Ismail said.
“He was admitted to the intensive care unit and confirmed to have had severe pneumonia,” he said, adding that the victim died at 2.30am on Monday and confirmed to have had A(H1N1) at 5.50pm on Tuesday.
Dr Ismail said the 16 new cases involved 10 from three new clusters and six sporadic cases.
“Of the 16 new cases, two are still being treated in wards, 11 are receiving outpatient treatment and three have died,” he said.

In JOHOR BARU, Johor Health department director Dr Mohd Khairi Yaakub said that the six-year-old boy, who was also suffering from pnemonia, died at about 2.30am on Wednesday.
“He was first admitted to a private hospital in Batu Pahat on July 26, and was later admitted to the Batu Pahat Hospital on July 30.
“He tested positive for the flu on July 31,” he said, reports FARIK ZOLKEPLI.
Dr Mohd Khairi said that Health Department personnel would monitor the conditions of the boy’s parents and other family members.
“We will treat them if they show any symptoms consistent with the flu,” he said.

In BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said his ministry was worried that the increasing haze throughout the country will worsen the spread of the A(H1N1) influenza.
The rising air pollution has resulted in an increase of respiratory ailments, a situation which will cause the sufferers to be more vulnerable to a fatal A(H1N1) virus attack, he said.
On Tuesday, the air quality in five areas reached unhealthy levels as the number of hotspots in Sumatra and Kalimantan increased drastically.
The haze has complicated an already difficult situation, Liow said, reports STEPHEN THEN.
“The A(H1N1) virus attacks the lung cells directly. It then causes serious pneunomia. Those with respiratory ailments have weaker immune systems and the attack can be more serious.
“Those with more serious respiratory ailments like asthma will have higher risks of getting a fatal A(H1N1) attack,” he told a press conference.
Liow was here in Brunei with six other Cabinet ministers to accompany Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak during the latter’s annual consultative meeting with Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.
Liow also warned those with even a mild case of flu to immediately isolate themselves from their family and the general public to curb the flu.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Doctors hit by H1N1, too

Star: MALACCA: Two doctors with the Malacca Hospital have been placed under home quarantine after developing the influenza A (H1N1) symptoms several days ago.
One of them, a 34-year-old woman doctor, was tested positive on Saturday. The woman doctor, who is attached to the hospital’s medical ward, developed a mild fever on Thursday night and sought treatment the following day when she developed breathing difficulties.
“I had mild fever but no other flu-like symptoms. However, I knew something was not right the following morning when I experienced shortness of breath,” she said when contacted at her home in Klebang.
The doctor, who was supposed to attend a dinner gathering at a hotel here on Saturday night, immediately got herself tested at the hospital.
“I was very anxious and wanted to know if I had the H1N1 flu before the dinner, as I did not want to spread it to others,” she said, adding that the results from a swab sample came back positive for the flu on Saturday morning.
She said she was immediately prescribed Tamiflu tablets and put under home quarantine until tomorrow (Wednesday).
“I am fortunate as I noticed changes in my breathing early on and sought help immediately. My condition showed a marked improvement immediately after taking the tablets,” she added.
State health director Dr Ghazali Othman confirmed the two doctors had been placed under quarantined.
Dr Ghazali also confirmed that more than 1,000 people had come to the hospital since the middle of last week to check if they had contracted the H1N1 virus.

Liow: Anti-viral treatment for high-risk groups

Star: PETALING JAYA: High-risk groups, including children and pregnant women, must be given anti-viral treatment if they go to hospitals with influenza-like symptoms.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the latest directive was made because these groups must be treated fast although they had yet to be confirmed with the influenza A (H1N1) virus.
“Waiting to be tested and waiting for the results could result in a delay in treatment,” said Liow, adding that the test results can be out within six hours.
To improve the identification of patients infected with the virus, Liow said a new set of guidelines would be issued to doctors on how to “increase the index of suspicion of patients with influenza A (H1N1)”.
On a doctor from the Malacca Hospital who has the virus, Liow said all doctors, as frontliners, must take the stipulated precautionary measures.
The spread of H1N1 virus could not be stopped and was inevitably in the community now and doctors for instance could also get infected outside their workplace, he added.
Liow said a meeting between ministries and all agencies involved would be held today to come up with more measures to curb the spread of the virus in the community.

In Putrajaya, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said 17 new cases were reported yesterday, which he described as sporadic or isolated.
He said seven of the new patients were treated at isolation wards, one at the intensive care unit while nine received outpatient treatment.
The total number of H1N1 cases reported in the country stands at 1,446.
Dr Ismail said 1,408 patients who contracted the flu had recovered and only 29 people were still being warded in hospital, adding that eight of them were warded in ICU as they were high-risk patients who were obese, pregnant and had low immunity.
In Ipoh, state Health Committee chairman Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon said two new H1N1 cases were reported yesterday. They have recovered and were discharged from the Raja Permaisuri Bainun Hospital.

A(H1N1): Death toll rises to eight

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia reported two new influenza A (H1N1) deaths yesterday, bringing the total number of people who have succumbed to the disease to eight.
The seventh victim was a 24-year-old native woman who died at the Miri Hospital’s intensive care unit, two weeks after giving birth to her first child. She was the first A (H1N1) fatality in Sarawak.
The eighth victim was a 51-year-old school teacher who died in Seremban on Sunday, said Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican.
The Institute for Medical Research confirmed yesterday that the teacher had contracted the virus. Her tissue samples were tested after her death.
She had taught at a school in Selangor, which was closed on July 27 following the discovery of an A (H1N1) cluster there.
The onset of the disease began on July 23, and the teacher visited a general practitioner on July 27.
She went to the Sungai Buloh Hospital on July 30, and subsequently to the Tuanku Ja’afar Hospital in Seremban on Sunday after experiencing a shortness of breath. She was admitted to the intensive care unit where she died.
The native woman was warded on July 17. At the time, she was already in an advanced stage of pregnancy.
The hospital helped her deliver a baby girl a few days later. The baby is healthy and has been handed over to the father, a labourer in his late 20s.
Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan Hong Nam said the state had stepped up the alert level.
“Nobody can take this disease lightly any more,” he said yesterday.
The Miri Hospital has stopped children from entering the wards unless they are undergoing treatment.
The elderly are also discouraged from the wards, while smokers are barred altogether.
Hospital director Dr Uma Devi said the tighter safety measures were aimed at protecting those with a weak immune system.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Tests confirm 11-year-old boy is sixth A (H1N1) - related death

Star: PUTRAJAYA: An 11-year-old boy who died at 8.30 on Sunday in Johor Baru from an iflammation of the lung and heart was also found to have been infected by the Influenza A (H1N1) virus, making him the six death in Malaysia related to the virus.
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Mohd Ismail Merican said was admitted into the Sultanah Aminah Johor Baru Hospital on July 29 with fever but showed no other signs of having the flu.
He was rushed into ICU on July 30 and confirmed to have the virus on Aug 1, Dr Ismail said in a statement on Sunday, adding that 39 cases of the flu were reported Sunday.
The boy's death follows the death of a 10-year-old in Perak on Friday whose post mortem tests revealed that she too had the flu, Bernama reported.
This made her the confirmed fifth death for the flu in the country.
Dr Ismail said tests on phlegm taken from the girl by the Institute of Medical Research (IMR) showed that the girl from Bagan Serai, Perak had the H1N1 virus.
"According to information received, the girl had been ill since July 27 but she did not suffer from any breathing problems when she received outpatient treatment at a private clinic," he said in a statement here Saturday night.
Dr Ismail said on the night of July 28, the girl had complained of breathing difficulties and received treatment at a Bagan Serai health clinic the next day and while receiving treatment, she was in stable condition and did not complain of breathing difficulties or cyanosis and was given outpatient treatment including antibiotics and cough medicine.
However, on Friday morning at 3am, she complained of breathing difficulties, fever and cough before arriving at the Bagan Serai Health Clinic for treatment but while receiving treatment, she passed out and was pronounced dead at 5.30am.
The post mortem done at the Alor Setar Hospital revealed that she had died of severe pneumonic changes.
He added that the girl's parents had also undergone tests and cleared of any disease while her five other siblings had slight breathing difficulties but were in stable condition.
Dr Mohd Ismail added that initial investigations revealed that there were no reports of Influenza Like Illness in the area, including the school where the girl was from but the district Health Department had been asked to monitor the situation closely.
Meanwhile, Bernama also reported that six institutions in Penang would resume classes on Monday after observing a weeklong shutdown due to the Influenza A (H1N1) outbreak.
State Health, Welfare, Caring Society and Environment Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said the health authorities had monitored the situation closely and it was now under control.
"The six educational institutes out of 25 closed, will resume classes tomorrow while the other 19 institutions will remain closed due to cluster cases of H1N1 infection," he told Bernama on Sunday.
He also urged all institutions in the state to be on the alert for cluster cases and inform the medical centre or hospital for any suspected H1N1 cases.
As of 8am Sunday, the number of accumulated H1N1 cases recorded by the health ministry nationwide stood at 574 imported cases, 855 locally-transmitted, with a 98 percent recovery rate although six have died.

1,390 H1N1 cases now, 10-year-old could be death No 5

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Nineteen new influenza A (H1N1) cases were reported yesterday, bringing the total number in the country to 1,390. Authorities are also awaiting the post-mortem report of a 10-year-old from Bagan Serai, Kerian, to see if it was a H1N1-related death.
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Mohd Ismail Merican said there were no new confirmed influenza A (H1N1) admitted to intensive care yesterday and that one of the nine cases initially meant for intensive care yesterday had been transferred to an isolation ward.
The remaining eight cases in the intensive care units of hospitals included two obese persons, a pregnant woman and a patient with low immunity, he added.
In Perak, state health committee chairman Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon said the state now had 49 confirmed H1N1 cases, an increase of four since Friday.
The Teluk Rubiah National Camp in Lumut was also closed after some of its trainees showed flu-like symptoms, said Dr Mah, adding that they were waiting for confirmation on the Bagan Serai case.
The institutions that were closed on Friday are SJK (T) Simpang Lima with 12 suspected cases; SJK (T) St Mary and SK Wawasan Pekan Baru, all in Kerian, with 22 suspected cases in total; the Tegas Mesra National Service camp in Selama; and the Universiti Teknologi Petronas hostel in Seri Iskandar, Tronoh, with 192 suspected cases.
In Malacca, there were five new confirmed cases. The Malacca Hospital is still awaiting the test results of 20 suspected cases yesterday.
State health director Dr Ghazali Othman said the four of them are national service trainees from Camp Taboh Naning, while the other was from Kolej Yayasan Melaka.
He also said that the nine-year-old girl from Bachang, who was initially admitted to a hospital’s intensive care unit on July 28, was in stable condition and recovering following treatment.
Since July 9, a total of 29 higher institutions, 11 secondary schools and one primary school were ordered to close temporarily.

Ministry mulls move in bid to contain influenza A (H1N1) virus

Star: GEORGE TOWN: The Health Ministry is considering producing and distributing mobile test kits to doctors in a bid to contain the influenza A (H1N1) virus
Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said there were now three government and one private testing laboratories functioning as centres to test for H1N1 but they would be inadequate if the pandemic continued to grow.
‘‘Our hospitals and clinics will be overwhelmed by those seeking to be tested. We need to involve all health outlets to help in the test process,’’ Liow told a press conference here.
He said Malaysia was seen to be taking more stringent steps compared to developed nations such as the United States or Britain because it had been exposed to similar outbreaks in the form of the avian flu, nipah virus and other new strains of contagious diseases.
‘‘The US or Britain were not involved in fighting such outbreaks previously so they are not as experienced as we are.’’
‘‘It is better to take strong preventive measures instead of waiting to cope with an escalating outbreak. We do not want to create panic but to generate more awareness on fighting the H1N1 pandemic.’’
He confirmed that Malaysia had placed an order for 200,000 doses of the newly produced H1N1 vaccine and delivery was expected by December.
‘‘It will take time to administer the vaccine as we also need to test it at our end first.’’
He said the latest measures to fight the highly contagious flu would be unveiled after an inter-ministerial meeting chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin on Tuesday.
The meeting would also involve representatives from all state governments.
‘‘We have a lot of work to do still. We need to brief many agencies and make preparations to cope with the pandemic, including allocating more hospital beds and isolation wards for it.’’