Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

One shot, two many

Monday, October 24th, 2016

PETALING JAYA: The Health Ministry has directed all health clinics to avoid giving babies two types of immunisation jabs on the same day.

Health Ministry deputy director-general Datuk Dr Lokman Hakim Sulaiman said immunisation shots were supposed to be given one at a time at intervals outlined in the National Immunisation Schedule.

“Giving two jabs at the same time happens when the immunisation schedule is breached,” he said, calling on parents to strictly abide by the national immunisation schedule.

However, in cases where they may have missed the schedule, parents could discuss with healthcare personnel to re-schedule the immunisation date to ensure only one jab was given per session, he said.

“We have informed healthcare personnel in clinics of this,” he said.

Dr Lokman said this in response to pleas by parents who claimed that their children became autistic after being administered with two types of vaccine on the same day when they were 18 months old.

He pointed out that there were no scientific evidence linking autism to MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine.

According to the current immunisation schedule in Malaysia, children at the age of 18 months were given a single shot of five-in-one vaccine DTaP-Hib/IPV (difteria, tetanus, pertusis, hemophillus influenza B and Polio).

“It is given in a single jab. This is the same vaccine given at the age of two months, three months and five months.

“Therefore, there is no association between the vaccine given at the age of 18 months and autism,” he said.

Dr Lokman said attempts to link MMR immunisation to autism were made based on evidence reported by Dr Andrew Wakefield in a 1998 study published in theLancet medical journal.

However, the Lancet had in 2004 retracted the interpretation of the Wakefield report, and subsequently retracted the entire report in 2010 on grounds of insufficient data, as the study was based only on 12 children.

Dr Lokman noted that a study conducted between 1988 and 1996 in Yokohama, Japan, on 31,426 children showed that the number of autism cases did not drop despite a drop in MMR immunisation rate.

“The study also showed a significant increase in autism cases, especially after 1993.

“In Malaysia, a study conducted in five districts between 2005 and 2006 showed there were two cases of autism for every 1,000 children aged between 18 months and three years.

“This is within the global range of one to six cases among every 1,000 children,” he said.

The Health Ministry had started collecting specific data on autism since 2004, he said.

“Within 12 years from between 2004 and 2015, we have identified 1,808 autism cases involving children below the age of seven,” Dr Lokman said.

Meanwhile, Persama (Pertubuhan Sayang Malaysia) Together For Autism founder Thila Laxshman said many parents in the group had similar experience whereby their children became autistic after getting two injections of vaccines on the same day.

After the injections, the children had fever and subsequently stopped talking, lost eye contact, had difficulty sleeping at night and threw tantrums to the point of meltdown.

“Our children were born normal but developed brain development disorders after the injections,” she said.

Thila, who is a singer, called on the authorities to seriously look into the possible link between autism and double vaccination.

A couple, Felix Edward Wilson and his wife Agnes Nathan, said their son Kevin became autistic after receiving two jabs of different types of vaccines at the age of two.

“Our son was born normal. He was able to string words into sentences at the age of eight months. He could sing nursery rhymes.

“Even before the age of one, he could tell the difference between a purse and a wallet.

“After the double vaccine shots, he lost his ability to talk. There was no more eye contact,” said Felix of his son, who is now 19.


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Contract jobs an ad hoc measure

Saturday, October 22nd, 2016

APPOINTING doctors, dentists and pharmacists by contract due to constraints in permanent posts has its pros and cons, said Dr Koh Kah Chai.

The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) honorary general secretary said: “The pros are that they will be gainfully employed and will get the prerequisite training.

“But the worry is whether they will still be employed by the Government when their contract ends at the end of their housemanship.”

This move, to take place latest by December, was announced by the Prime Minister during Budget 2017, and is meant to benefit the nearly 2,600 doctors now unable to undergo housemanship due to lack of permanent positions in hospitals.

The Federation of Private Medical Practitioners’ Associations, Malay­sia, president Dr Steven Chow agreed: “It is an ad hoc measure.

“What happens after the end of their contracts? There will still be a logjam of doctors.

“If you increase the output of doctors, you should have made arrangements to increase the number of housemen and medical officer posts as well,” he said.

Likewise, the creation of a new civil service pay grade – 56, to be placed between grade 54 and Jusa C – is only a temporary measure in its objective of preventing medical and dental specialists from leaving Government service and addressing the delays in their promotion.

“It is a stop-gap measure, and some feel that it will delay promotion to Jusa C,” Dr Koh said.

Dr Chow said this was only an ad hoc measure that was unlikely to stem the outflow from the public sector.

The extra grade would mean doctors will take longer to reach the highest pay grades, which would in turn affect their pensions, he said.

On the Prime Minister’s announcement that the Govern­ment would cooperate with the private sector to run non-profit charitable hospitals, Dr Koh said: “While it is a noble idea, in the absence of details of the financing mechanism, we can’t really comment on the buy-in from the private sector.

“It appears to be a proposal of cost-sharing in the provision of healthcare to the rakyat.”

MMA past president Dr Milton Lum said the efforts to combat dengue, which was allocated RM80mil in the Budget, would benefit more from making the vaccine available.

“Vaccination is a cheap way of decreasing dengue cases.

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Make all medical grads take exam, says don

Sunday, October 2nd, 2016

PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia should open its doors to all Malaysian graduates and ensure they take a qualifying examination, said Prof Datuk Dr Syed Ahmad Hussein.

He said students should be allowed to study in any of the medical schools but they should take a common assessment examination after completing their studies.

“I don’t think we should list them in the first place,” he said of the recognised foreign schools in the Second Schedule of the Medical Act 1971.

Dr Syed Ahmad, who is a former Malaysian Qualifications Agency CEO, said schools that did not meet the standards should be removed from the list, following years of complaints that there were not enough training hospitals to cope with the huge number of medical graduates returning each year.

“The thing I like about the American system is that you can do whatever you like but if you want to practise, you take the exam,” said Dr Syed Ahmad who has masters and doctorate degrees in political science from Yale University.

He also teaches political science at Universiti Sains Malaysia.

The Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) has over the years proposed to do away with the Second Schedule and instead impose the medical qualifying examination (MQE).

As far back as December 2010, The Star reported that many people advocated amending the Medical Act 1971 to make the MQE compulsory for all students, because students from recognised schools could also fall short of the standards.

But in June 2011, the Cabinet decided to maintain the existing system.

Dr Syed Ahmad said the Govern­ment should not waiver even if parents objected to their children sitting for the MQE because they had graduated from established schools in Britain and Australia.

“People should be prepared for the globalised world. The world still wants high-quality doctors even though many countries have an excess of doctors,” he said.

Dr Syed Ahmad said the issue was having too few places to train students in.

In the long run, all medical schools should build their own hospitals to meet the need for more training hospitals, he said.

Asked what he thought of the MMC wanting 5As in the SPM as the minimum entry qualification into a medical course, he said it was fine but there were other issues to look into.


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    Sunday, October 2nd, 2016


    KOTA KINABALU: The Flying Doctor Services (FDS) for far-flung villages in rural Sabah have been terminated by the Health Department after 41 years.

    Sabah Air Aviation Sdn Bhd CEO Terry Chan confirmed the news, adding that the firm was saddened by the decision as it would affect thousands of rural villagers from across nine districts in the state.

    “I’m quite sad with the decision to not renew the contract with Sabah Air as we have been running the programme for over 40 years, without making any profit from it,” Chan said.

    In fact, he added, each flight to evacuate or provide healthcare services had been done with the firm bearing the surcharge of the cost.

    “Each flight using the twin-engine choppers costs around RM6,500 while the health department had been only charged RM4,250,” Chan revealed.

    A letter had been issued to Sabah Air informing them that the FDS and Medevec contract will not be renewed. The department also had cited financial factor as the reason it was ended, said Chan.

    “However, it is surprising as Sarawak’s FDS are still running, therefore, Sabah should be able to do so as well,” he said.

    Chan also said that he pitied the rural folk, especially pregnant women who depended heavily on the services to provide them healthcare and medical attention.

    The FDS and Medevec were meant to bring monthly medical aid to rural folks as well as attend to medical emergencies such as childbirth for those who do not have access to medical facilities. It has been running since 1975.

    A recent visit by New Sabah Times to Kg Perupuk, Pitas saw the villagers revealing they are used to waiting for their monthly medical supplies for serious ailments such as high blood pressure, hypertension, diabetes as well as other common sicknesses such as cough, flu and fever.

    Children as young as three to the elderly up to age 80, made the beeline for the monthly healthcare session, as they had to walk over an hour to the nearest town if they missed the FDS team.

    Some opt for river transportation, crossing the Bengkoka River with boats to reach the town faster.

    According to one of the doctors who joined the mission Dr Ajie Prasastie from Tamparuli said the FDS was helping the rural people even though it was a limited service, adding that cases of chronic hypertension was among the common ailments that plagued the people.

    “They can’t go to the clinic, so they end up waiting for us to come down and treat them,” he explained. One of those recipients of the FDS is Dulanah Anayai, 30, who brought her two young children, Zedkarfiss, 6, and Zefyabia, 3.

    “I have five kids, three of them are in the primary school. They take the boat to the school which is at Kg Pinapak. Crossing the Bengkoka river is slightly faster than using road as it would take about an hour for them,” she explained.

    by S. SHAMALA.

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    Zika infection not easily detected – consultant

    Wednesday, September 21st, 2016
    GEORGE TOWN, 5 Sept -- Pengunjung Hospital Pulau Pinang tidak melepaskan peluang untuk mengetahui gejala virus Zika yang dipaparkan melalui poster di ruang legar hospital berkenaan, hari ini. Kerajaan mengambil beberapa langkah untuk mengatasi masalah virus Zika berikutan terdapat satu kes apabila seorang wanita dari Klang  mengidap virus itu selepas pulang dari melawat anaknya di Singapura.  --fotoBERNAMA (2016) HAK CIPTA TERPELIHARA

    GEORGE TOWN, 5 Sept — Pengunjung Hospital Pulau Pinang tidak melepaskan peluang untuk mengetahui gejala virus Zika yang dipaparkan melalui poster di ruang legar hospital berkenaan, hari ini.
    Kerajaan mengambil beberapa langkah untuk mengatasi masalah virus Zika berikutan terdapat satu kes apabila seorang wanita dari Klang mengidap virus itu selepas pulang dari melawat anaknya di Singapura.

    KOTA KINABALU: Out of 10 suspected Zika cases, only two have shown symptoms while the rest become carriers of the virus for a period which may extend to eight months.

    According to studies conducted on the virus, the carriers, once they have been bitten by the Aedes mosquito, will only experience tell-tale signs of a typical fever, such as a rise in body temperature and minor joints pain, but nothing which points specifically to the Zika infection.

    Public health medicine consultant of the Kota Kinabalu area health office, Dr Jiloris @ Julian F. Dony, is therefore urging the people to keep their areas clean so as to eliminate mosquito breeding grounds.

    “Once the virus is in the body, only two out of 10 suspected cases will show signs while the others could be carrying the virus without any symptoms.

    “It will affect them, maybe indirectly, such as when they have sexual intercourse and face the risk of conceiving a baby suffering from microcephaly.

    “This is the challenge because 80 percent of suspected cases show no signs and are very difficult to detect, so this is where public health concerns come into play.

    “Now, prevention is the best way to go about it,” he told a press conference at the Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) public health forum on the Zika virus.

    He said working in tandem with scientists and researchers would also help them come up with a way to detect the presence of the virus sooner.

    Presently, the health office is keeping tabs on dengue cases and following up when the need arises based on the diagnosis, because there is a possibility that some of the reported patients might actually be suffering from Zika, said Dr Jiloris.

    “Investigation into places which are known to be ‘dengue hot spots’ should also be carried out, as there might be Zika presence there as well. We still need to check and do further investigations, and that is why we need dedicated research,” he added.

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    Zika can be transmitted through sex

    Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

    KOTA KINABALU: The Zika virus can be transmitted through sexual intercourse from a patient to his or her partner even though neither is symptomatic, said public health medicine consultant of the Kota Kinabalu Health Office, Dr Jiloris Dony.

    There are no serious signs to show if someone is infected except for some mild fever.

    “So this is our concern now because a female patient may risk conceiving a mentally retarded baby or a baby with an abnormally small head,” said Dr Jiloris.

    He was speaking at a press conference during a break from a public health forum on the Zika virus at the Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences yesterday.

    “However, the virus that can cause abnormality to babies has not been detected in Sabah yet because the strain found here is Micronesia unlike in Brazil which is the French Polynesia,” he said.

    According to research, the virus can stay in the body for up to eight months and it takes about three days to one week for the body to react after being bitten by the mosquito.

    “Actually some 80 per cent of people who are infected by the virus do not have any symptoms and this is our challenge. It is a public health concern because we cannot detect the virus during a check-up,” said Dr Jiloris who also presented a talk on ‘How to Protect Yourself from Zika Infection’ at the forum.

    “So in this case, prevention is better than cure. Make sure all mosquito breeding grounds for the female Aedes are destroyed in your house compound,” he said.

    by PAUL MU.

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    Zika is not something to be taken lightly

    Wednesday, September 21st, 2016


    Dr Jiloris (centre) speaking to reporters while Dr Ahmad (left) and Dr Chua (right) look on

    KOTA KINABALU: Zika is not something to be taken lightly; if left neglected it can affect the family institution, thecommunity and the healthcare.

    Zika virus usually has milder symptom, commonly short-lasting, no associated fatalities and a low hospitalisation rate as compared to other mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue, said Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) vice chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Mohd Harun Abdullah.

    “But studies have found that there is a strong association between Zika virus infection and microcephaly or babies born with an abnormally small head,” he disclosed during the public health forum on Zika virus at the UMS’ faculty of medicine & health sciences (FMHS) on Tuesday.

    As there is no known cure or vaccination available yet, he said integrated vector management aiming to reduce mosquito vector density in a sustainable manner is being actively undertaken by the Health Department.

    Dr Harun said: “In areas where the Aedes mosquito is active like here in Kota Kinabalu, we must heed the Ministry of Health’s (MoH) advice on preventive measures.”

    “These advices include removal of all open containers with stagnant water in and surrounding houses on a regular basis, or if that is not possible, treatment with larvicides, tight coverage of water containers, barrels, wells and water storage tanks,” he said in his speech read by deputy dean academic & students’ affairs of FMHS Dr Ahmad Faris Abdullah.

    “Also the wide use of physical barriers that reduce the risk of exposure to mosquito bites such as mosquito nets, window/door screens and air conditioning,” said Dr Harun.

    Meanwhile, he said up to September 14, the report from the MoH indicated there are six confirmed cases of Zika virus infection all over Malaysia, one of which was reported at Taman Public Jaya in Likas here three weeks ago.

    “The MoH also found that there were a further 79 cases which showed signs and symptoms of Zika virus infection, although fortunately all cases tested negative,” he revealed.

    Based on the research carried out by virologists in Institute of Medical Research (IMR), he said the lineage of Zika virus case in Sabah is different than the first case reported in Johor where our case was caused by the locally-transmitted Asian lineage of Zika virus (Micronesia) rather than the South American lineage (French Polynesia).

    A tourist from Germany was also reported to have Zika virus infection two years ago, who was believed to be infected in Sabah, he recalled.

    He said the forum can be an avenue to explore certain epidemiological questions and uncertainties such as whether the patient acquired Zika virus locally or from Peninsula, which strain was responsible, is it an indigenous strain or new strain, and if present, from where are these strains endemic in Sabah.

    Dr Harun hoped the forum will also provide an updates regarding Zika virus situation in Sabah especially Kota Kinabalu.

    “It is also anticipated the forum will help to increase awareness of the public regarding the public health risks of Zika virus and become a foundation of collaboration between our university and Sabah Health Department in conducting comprehensive public health research to benefit the community,” he added.

    The topics discussed during the forum were “What Can Zika Virus Do To You?” by Jesselton Medical Centre infectious disease consultant Dr Timothy William; “How to Protect Yourself from Zika Infection?” by Kota Kinabalu Health Office (public health medicine consultant) Dr Jiloris Dony and “Zika Genome Provides Interesting Insights” by FMHSmolecular epidemiologist Prof Dr Kamruddin Ahmed as well as “Forum – Zika Virus in Kota Kinabalu” moderated by FMHS (public health medicine consultant) Datuk Dr Mohd Yusof Ibrahim.

    by PAUL MU.

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    Prioritise health and nature

    Monday, September 12th, 2016

    A rethink of our development paradigm is in order as problems like Zika and floods rise.

    SEVERAL issues and events have emerged in the last few weeks that raise alarms on the need to shift poli­cies so that health and the environment get their places at the top of our development priorities.

    The predominant development model places emphasis on economic and commercial activities, whilst treating health and environmental problems as side effects that can be dealt with, piecemeal, when they arise.

    This should not be the case. These “side effects” are going to overwhelm the “mainstream” objective of economic growth if we do not take them more seriously.

    The latest health scare is the Zika virus. It has caused great anxiety be­­cause it can cause microcephaly, which affects the growth of a baby’s brain. Not so well known is that Zika can also cause Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare condition in which a person’s immune system attacks their peripheral nerves and can even result in paralysis.

    Singapore has become Asia’s biggest victim of the Zika outbreak, and it is going all out to check it. Thailand also has a significant number of cases. It is a matter of time before Malaysia, sharing many conditions with our neighbours, also experien­ces a Zika outbreak. The first cases have been reported, including a pregnant woman in Johor.

    On one hand, there is no need for panic. On the other hand, a major campaign to eradicate the Aedes mosquitoes and to minimise mosquito bites has to be implemented.

    We have not done well in controlling dengue, spread by the same mosquito. The number of dengue cases in Malaysia went down from 49,335 in 2008 to 19,884 (36 deaths) in 2011, then shot up to 120,836 (336 deaths) in 2015. In the first half of 2016, there were 57,782 cases.

    The dengue situation looks intractable so far, and that implies it will be difficult as well to contain Zika. So, more effort and resources have to be put to drastically reduce the mosquito population, and everyone should do their part.

    Another emerging health problem is antibiotic resistance. Drug-resistant bacterial infections killed 19,122 people in Thailand in 2010, according to a study published last week. That is an alarming incidence of deaths, as the United States (with a much higher population than Thailand) is estimated to have 23,000 such deaths a year.

    Problems linked to the environment are also cropping up. The annual “haze” started again a few weeks ago, with a few towns registering serious air pollution. Fortu­nately the hazy situation abated, perhaps due to rain.


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    Need to improve hygiene standards

    Sunday, September 4th, 2016

    WHEN we talk about food, we cannot leave out the issue of hygiene. Poor food handling standards can spell trouble.

    Just last week, two incidents of food poisoning were widely reported in many dailies.

    On Aug 24, 12 students from Sekolah Sukan Malaysia Terengg-anu’s hostel were taken ill after eating an ayam masak merah dish. The next day, 70 students from Sekolah Menengah Poh Lam’s hostel in Perak were down with food poisoning after eating an egg curry dish for lunch.

    According to a statement issued by the Health Ministry’s director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, the government was aware of these incidents and was taking steps to ensure they do not happen again.

    Investigations by the ministry showed that salmonella was the culprit in both the Terengganu and Perak school cases.

    Both canteens have since been closed. The ministry has also undertaken various measures such as increasing inspections of school canteens and kitchens throughout the country.

    From 2015 to June 2016, its officials inspected 24,280 canteens and 6,034 hostel kitchens. Of these, 261 (0.9%) operators were ordered to close for failing hygiene standards.

    To eliminate the incidence of food poisoning, the ministry is now working together with the Education Ministry to review the contracts for canteen operators and improve hygiene guidelines.

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    Sabah Zika patient dies

    Sunday, September 4th, 2016

    PETALING JAYA: The second Malaysian who tested positive for Zika locally has died of heart complications.

    Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah confirmed that the 61-year-old ethnic Dusun man from Sabah, who was admitted with multiple health problems, died at 5.30pm yesterday.

    “He died of complications from his underlying heart disease,” he said, adding that the full results of the investigation into the cause of death are pending.

    The man, who had muscle pain and diarrhoea, was rushed to the Queen Elizabeth 2 Hospital’s emergency and trauma unit on National Day.

    Dr Noor Hisham earlier said the case, reported to the ministry on Friday, was believed to be the first locally-transmitted Zika infection in the country.

    “This Zika infection was most likely from a local source of infection as the patient did not have any recent travelling history abroad and was probably bitten by an Aedes mosquito infected with Zika,” he said in a statement.

    The patient developed a fever on Aug 27 and sought medical attention for the first time at the Luyang Health Clinic on Aug 30. The next day, he sought further treatment at the hospital when he experienced worsening fever, muscle aches and diarrhoea.

    The patient, said Dr Noor Hisham, also had high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease, kidney stones and gout.

    “Due to the multiple illnesses, the patient’s condition was quite serious when he was first seen at the hospital,” he said.

    Dr Noor Hisham said the patient’s blood and urine samples tested positive for Zika but his serious clinical condition could also be due to existing health afflictions and not primarily due to the Zika virus.

    The Health Ministry, he added, had immediately started vector control activities in the residential areas and places that the patient had visited as well as examined his close contacts.

    He warned that since the Zika virus has been detected in the country, Zika cases are expected to increase further.

    On Thursday, the ministry announced the first Zika patient diagnosed in the country, a 58-year-old woman who had visited her daughter in Singapore with her husband on Aug 19 and returned on Aug 21.

    Her daughter, who works and lives in Paya Lebar, Singapore, had been infected.

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