Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Vaccination a must under Islam, say muftis

Monday, June 27th, 2016

KUALA LUMPUR: It is compulsory under Islam to use vaccines against diseases which can cause death, two state muftis have clarified.

Kelantan mufti Datuk Mohamad Shukri Mohamad said vaccines were needed to protect the infected person as well as others.

“If it makes a difference between life and death, it can be considered an emergency, so taking the vaccine is a must,” he said.

Mohamad Shukri said the anti-vaccine group should not assume that vaccines contained unclean or forbidden substances.

“The Health Ministry has researched and investigated the contents. We have to trust the authorities,” he said.

Perak mufti Tan Sri Harussani Zakaria said the use of vaccines had been long approved.

“The law must be obeyed, on condition the vaccine is halal. If there is no halal vaccine at the time as it contains forbidden substance, it can still be taken,” he said.

Bernama also reported that the Kelantan Health Department would enhance its immunisation campaign to curb diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus and polio among others.

It quoted department director Datuk Dr Ahmad Razin Ahmad Mahir as saying that the public, particularly those in rural areas, still lacked awareness on the importance of vaccination.

“We will carry out follow-up action for children who have yet to undergo immunisation, especially in rural areas, and have identified groups who have refused vaccinations.

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More parents choosing not to immunise kids

Saturday, June 25th, 2016

A shot at life: Despite being crucial in disease control and checked=

A shot at life: Despite being crucial in disease control and checked for both safety and even Islamic law compliance, the technical nature of vaccines leaves them prone to unfounded suspicion.

GEORGE TOWN: More and more parents are not immunising their children over misguided fears that the vaccines are not halal, Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya said.

He said there were 1,500 cases last year but in the first three months of this year, it was already at 500.

The danger “is increasing every year as more people reject immunisation”, he said.

Kedah has the highest number of rejection cases in the country, with 318 in 2015 and 239 the previous year. State health director Datuk Dr Norhizan Ismail said the top three districts where parents said “no” were Baling, Padang Terap and Kulim.

Most of them doubted the halal status of the vaccines, he said.

“Ninety-nine per cent of those who rejected the vaccines were Malays, while the rest were non-Malaysian citizens,” he told Bernama.

Dr Hilmi said that if this year’s figure was extrapolated, there would be 2,000 cases of children in the country not getting immunised by year’s end.

“This is a worrying figure and very dangerous,” he said.

Diseases cannot spread if enough people are vaccinated against them. Before vaccines, many children died from diseases such as measles, polio, smallpox and whooping cough.

Dr Hilmi said the fears over vaccines were unfounded, explaining that the products had undergone checks, including DNA testing, and were halal.

According to him, the Government spends more than RM100mil a year providing free immunisation to children against 12 diseases.


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Tens of thousands of ringgit could be lost if orders are cancelled

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

JOHOR BARU: With the Hari Raya celebrations just around the corner, the foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) afflicting thousands of cows in Mersing could not have come at a worse time.

Cattle breeder Md Lazim Awang Chik said he and other breeders stood to lose tens of thousands of ringgit due to the disease which hit the Endau area for the first time.

“I have already received orders for about 100 cows from my customers in Kota Tinggi.

“One cow alone costs between RM3,000 and RM4,000 depending on size but with the news about the disease, I am afraid many people will cancel their orders, putting breeders like me in a difficult situation,” he said.

Md Lazim said he has been rearing cows the past 30 years and had never come across FMD before.

“I am grateful that so far none of my 500 cows are showing any symptoms of FMD. Each one of them has already been vaccinated and given antibiotics from the state Veterinary Department.

Md Lazim said he had assured his customers and those outside Endau that the meat from the area was safe to consume, as the farmers would only slaughter the healthy ones.

“People have to remember that we are villagers – we normally slaughter about 50 cows here for our relatives and loved ones when they come to visit us for Hari Raya.


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Eight heart patients return from successful surgeries in Korea.

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016
Eva at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport with some of the patients and members of the Korean NGO recently.

Eva at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport with some of the patients and members of the Korean NGO recently.

KOTA KINABALU: All the eight hole-in-the-heart patients who left for South Korea to undergo corrective heart surgey are now safely back in Sabah.

According to the honorary secretary of the Society for the Sabah Heart Fund (SOSHF), Eva Susau yesterday, the patients left for South Korea on May 30 and had undergone successful corrective surgery.

She said six of the patients arrived on June 13 and they were Khairunnisa Izzati Raman, Mohamad Nazri Tuan Utoh, Muhammad Husaini Hasim, Elissa Eve Edy Elves, Aleeya Aleesya Amir and Mohammad Kayrul Makdam.

The remaining two patients, Clive Lim and Farish Adly, were welcomed home on June 21 by members of the SOSHF and their families.

“Once again, we wish to thank everyone, particularly the State government, and all involved partners in the Mending Heart Project,” Eva said.

She also appealed to the public to continue donating generously to SOSHF to help other hole-in-heart patients in Sabah.

The patients selected for the project are mainly from the rural parts of Sabah and from poor families. The cost of a simple corrective heart surgery in Malaysia is between RM35,000 and RM45,000. Surgeries that are intricate are of course more costly.
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Malaysia on HFMD alert

Friday, June 17th, 2016

PETALING JAYA: The country is on alert level following an outbreak of the hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) nationwide.

From June 5 to 11, the number of HFMD cases reported was 1,379, an increase of 83 (6.4%) compared with the week before, the Health Ministry said.

Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the increasing HFMD trend began from the week of April 24 to 30, which was 794 cases, after it crossed the warning level or “Alert Level,” surpassing the highest level of 644 cases a week last year.

“Following that, the Ministry had issued warning letters on the increasing number of HFMD cases on May 9 to all state health departments so that they step up monitoring efforts and prevent it from spreading,” he said in a statement Thursday.

On Wednesday, it was reported that Negri Sembilan was on HFMD alert as health authorities cautioned nurseries and preschools to observe greater hygiene following a sharp increase in cases.

Dr Hisham said that so far, Selangor reported the highest number of HFMD cases with 4,441 (32.6%), followed by Johor, 1,393 (10.2%), Kuala Lumpur, 1,317 (9.7%), Sabah, 1,299 (9.5%) and Sarawak 1,108 (8.1%).

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Helping Malaysians be healthier

Sunday, June 12th, 2016

Anusha Thavarajah

Anusha Thavarajah

IT’S increasingly clear from the data – some 3.5 million Malaysians have diabetes; 6.1 million are afflicted with hypertension; and 100,000 people suffer from cancer each year – that Malaysia has a chronic health problem.

As the recent National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2015 indicated, the alarming rise of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the country is largely due to our poor lifestyle choices – unhealthy behaviours regarding food, physical activity, sleep and peace of mind.

The Health Ministry survey showed that 94% of Malaysian adults do not eat enough fresh fruits and vegetables and about one out of three Malaysian adults are not physically active.

Worse, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam had reportedly lamented, more than half of those living with NCDs like diabetes and high cholesterol level were not even aware of their health problem.

This was despite the Government’s campaigns to educate people on the dangers of these chronic diseases and encourage them to make healthier lifestyle choices.

Dr Subramaniam noted that more effort and enforcement were needed to increase health awareness among Malaysians, as well as compelling individuals to take more responsibility for their own health.

Describing the NHSM 2015 report as “very disturbing”, the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Dr John Chew believes a full-pronged attack at these lifestyle diseases would require all sectors – from law to education and business – to work together to cut out unhealthy behaviours such as smoking and reinforce healthy eating habits.

To encourage more sports and physical activities, Dr Chew called for a more comprehensive national sports policy.

Crucially, what must be espoused is that preventing disease is easier than reversing it, especially with the rising cost of treatment.

As the survey highlighted, merely increasing public knowledge and awareness has not changed behaviours. Other than the sticks suggested, perhaps carrots are also needed to change mindsets.

Some, including medical professionals in the West, are looking at a different approach – incentivising health targets to promote the optimisation of lifestyle.

One is insurer AIA Berhad, which is looking at financial incentives to change behaviours with their new integrated insurance and health programme AIA Vitality.

“There is overwhelming evidence to show that the risks of many diseases are reduced by healthier food choices and increasing our physical activity. Education alone has not been sufficient to change behaviours.”

“We believe incentivising our members to take better care of their health will not only make insurance more meaningful in their daily lives but also translate into long term healthcare savings. This is especially relevant in view of rising healthcare costs here,” says AIA Berhad CEO Anusha Thavarajah (pic).

Integrating health and wellness benefits with AIA’s life insurance and takaful solutions, the recently launched AIA Vitality is Malaysia’s first science-backed health and wellness programme that provides participants with the knowledge, tools and motivation to help them improve their health.

It taps into behavioural economics and applies psychological insights into human behaviours to help people move towards healthier choices.

As many would agree, making better lifestyle choices is sometimes easier said than done.

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Facing up to the world’s health crises

Monday, June 6th, 2016

The recent World Health Assembly discussed the manifold global health crises that the world is unprepared for, and adopted resolutions to act on many issues.

THE global health situation is facing many critical challenges, and urgent action is needed to prevent crises from boiling over. This is the impression one gets from this year’s World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva last week.

The WHA is the world’s prime public health event, attended by 3,500 delegates, including Health Ministers from most of the 194 countries.

In her opening speech, World Health Organisation director-general Dr Margaret Chan gave an overview of what went right and what is missing in global health.

First the good news: 19,000 fewer children dying every day, a 44% drop in maternal mortality, the 85% cure rate for tuberculosis, and 15 million people living with HIV now receiving therapy, up from just 690,000 in 2000.

Then Chan described how health has become a globalised problem, with air pollution becoming a transboundary health hazard, and drug-resistant pathogens being spread through travel and food trade.

The recent Ebola and Zika outbreaks showed how global health emergencies can quickly develop. The world is not prepared to cope with the dramatic resurgence of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases.

Chan said the global health landscape is being shaped by three slow-motion disasters: climate change, antimicrobial resistance and the rise of chronic non-communicable diseases.

She described these as man-made disasters created by policies that place economic interests above health and environmental concerns. Unchecked, these disasters will reach a tipping point where the harm done is irreversible. For antimicrobial resistance, “we are on the verge of a post-antibiotic era in which common infectious diseases will once again kill”.

On moving ahead, Chan pinpointed universal health coverage as the target that underpins all others in the health-related Sustainable Development Goals.

The assembly agreed that the WHO set up a new Health Emergencies Programme to enable it to give rapid support to countries and communities to prepare for, face or recover from emergencies caused by health hazards including disease outbreaks, disasters and conflicts.

On anti-microbial resistance, many developing countries stressed the importance of funds and technology to help them develop national action plans by 2017.

The WHO produced a paper on options to set up a global stewardship framework to support the development, control and appropriate use of new antimicrobial medicines and diagnostic tools.


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Simple blood tests can help detect cancer, study finds

Sunday, June 5th, 2016

AFP pix

AFP pix

CHICAGO: Blood samples can be just as effective as invasive tissue biopsies in monitoring cancer and can help doctors better prescribe treatment, a study revealed Saturday.

Although tumor biopsies are generally used to assess changes in a cancer’s DNA, blood samples can do the same thing, according to the study presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

New advances are allowing researchers to study cancer via the bloodstream where tumor cells shed small, detectable pieces of their DNA, according to researchers.

By assessing this, DNA doctors can “monitor changes in the cancer as it evolves over time, which can be critical when patients and physicians are discussing treatment options for continued tumor control,” according to a preview of the study.

And blood samples allow doctors to do so without resorting to an involved, surgical tumor biopsy, said researchers on the study, one of the largest ever conducted on cancer genomics.

“These findings suggest that analysis of shed tumor DNA in patient blood, also known as a liquid biopsy, can be a highly informative, minimally-invasive alternative when a tissue biopsy is insufficient for genotyping or cannot be obtained safely,” said study presenter Philip Mack, professor and director of molecular pharmacology at the University of California Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center.

And because genetic changes in cancer DNA occur even before tumor growth becomes evident in a scan, blood samples can help health professionals adjust a patient’s treatment sooner.

Blood tests can also provide a more comprehensive sample of a tumor’s DNA since biopsy tissue comes from only one part of a tumor and therefore may not provide a sample of the changing DNA.

“Having a good, reliable option beyond a tumor biopsy could have a major impact on our ability to select the right therapy for the right patient,” said Sumanta Kumar Pal, a medical oncologist at the City of Hope cancer center in California, who was not involved in the research.


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Ministry failed Sabahans: NGO

Friday, May 27th, 2016

Kota Kinabalu: The Health Ministry has failed the people of Sabah by not improving the conditions in Queen Elizabeth Hospital I (QEH I), according to the Sabah People’s Right Association, which highlighted several outstanding grouses, Wednesday.

Its President Lee Pun Yee reminded the Ministry that health and education cannot be compromised because these are the cornerstones of any country’s progress and prosperity.

“Firstly, the perennial woes of the QEH I public car park have yet to be resolved. It is a messy area where outpatients and visitors park illegally for want of space and thus hinder mobility. Whoever planned the car park was not farsighted in that the growing population of Kota Kinabalu and the foreseeable increase in the number of vehicles on the road were not taken into consideration.

“In fact, a multi-storey car park area should have been in place but clearly, the planners were not sensitive to public needs,” he told a press conference at the QEH I Canteen.

According to Lee, he had previously brought the matter to the attention of the hospital authorities and was assured that something would be done.

Secondly, he said, the hospital’s haemodialysis centre is in dire need of more machines but this is apparently not forthcoming. “Isn’t the Ministry aware of Sabah’s need for improved services and facilities? Maybe we are sometimes forgotten because we are 1600km from Kuala Lumpur.”

He said one patient with kidney failure was told to undergo haemodialysis only once a week, instead of three times, when she sought treatment at the hospital last December.

“Subsequently, the affected patient had no choice but to receive treatment at a private haemodialysis centre.

Mind you, it’s not cheap. It costs between RM200 and RM250 per session,” Lee added.

Thirdly, he noted that while parking lots are provided for doctors and nurses in the vicinity of the QEH I Haemodialysis Centre, the same cannot be said for patients who are required to come to the centre at least three times a week.

Lee showed reporters the spot where a female patient fainted and fell at the entrance/exit after treatment, resulting in bleeding on her back, when she was about to go to a waiting car driven by her husband.

“The husband could not enter the area (immediately outside the centre) because it is usually chained.

Only authorised personnel are allowed to park there. Normally, patients would feel weak after haemodialysis and should not be made to walk far to their vehicle.

“Under the circumstances, why can’t the hospital authorities designate a parking lot as a pick-up and drop-off point in the interest of patients’ safety and well-being?” he asked.

Fourthly, Lee lamented that the signage for disabled persons (OKU) placed on a pole near the centre was removed and yet to be reinstated. “Neither are there any parking lots reserved for OKUs now in that particular area,” he said.

He believes that because of his outspokenness, he may not be in the good books of the hospital authorities.

“Why should the doctors ‘hate’ me as claimed, instead of appreciating my initiative? I am only doing my bit for the community for the sake of patients. I have to play a role in highlighting the people’s grievances,” he said matter-of-factly.

Against this backdrop, he said the Sabah People’s Right Association would be willing to offer help to QEH I in terms of expanding its existing public car park area if adjacent land could be made available.

Similarly, Lee said, the association could also assist in respect of extending the existing haemodialysis centre and acquiring more haemodialysis machines for the hospital if given the mandate to do so.

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Experts: Focus on digestive health

Sunday, May 22nd, 2016

SUBANG JAYA: Malaysians need to place more importance on their digestive health and lifestyle, says Health Ministry’s Medical Development Division director Datuk Dr Azman Abu Bakar.

He said many were unaware that colorectal cancer due to an unhealthy lifestyle was the second most common cancer in the country after breast cancer.

“Look around at what kind of fast food we have now.

“That’s one of the reasons for an increase in non-communicable diseases; it’s this unhealthy lifestyle,” he said after launching the 2016 World Digestive Health Day celebration yesterday.

He said due to the lack of attention paid to digestive health, many brush off the early symptoms of gastrointestinal (GI) cancers such as colorectal cancer.

“They’ll say this is normal, I get diarrhoea, they’ll say it’s indigestion, salah makan(ate something bad).

“They don’t see it as sinister but when they are educated about it, they are knowledgeable and they’ll look at it and say this might be a problem,” he said.

He said it was important for Malaysians to take care of their digestive health to lessen the risks of getting colorectal cancer.

“You are what you eat,” he said, adding that Malaysians’ sedentary lifestyle also contributed to the increase in GI cancers.

Digestive Health Malaysia deputy chairman Prof Dr Raja Affendi Raja Ali agreed that many sufferers of colorectal cancer only find out about their disease during the late stages of the cancer.

“Usually it takes a lot of symptoms or signs to be present in them before they even see us (doctors),” he said, adding that statistics showed that only nine per cent of colorectal cancer sufferers were diagnosed at Stage I of the disease.

He said the rising number of obese Malaysians showed the need for more awareness on the importance of digestive health and physical activity.


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