Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

‘Zika virus found in Malaysia in 1969’

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016

PETALING JAYA: Zika is an existing virus in Malaysia and the steps needed to prevent its infection are similar to those adopted for dengue, said a researcher.

World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Arbovirus Reference and Research director Prof Dr Sazaly Abu Bakar said the Zika virus was isolated from mosquitoes in 1969 in Bentong, Pahang.

However, the origin of the virus discovered in Malaysia was not known since it was not studied to determine its genome, he said.

“It may have come from Africa or could be native to our country and found in our monkeys and mosquitoes,” he added.

Dr Sazaly said they had not seen the virus since 1969 because no one had looked for it.

According to WHO, Zika virus is an emerging mosquito-borne virus that was first identified in Uganda in 1947 in the rhesus monkeys.

It was subsequently identified in humans in 1952 in Uganda and Tanzania. Outbreaks of Zika virus disease have been recorded in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific.

Asked why the world had had the virus for so long but the issue of babies born with small brains (microcephaly) only started to emerge recently, Dr Sazaly said the size of an outbreak possibly amplified the otherwise rare event.

“The ways to prevent Zika infection are similar to the methods used in dengue prevention,” he said.

“If we tackle dengue, we tackle Zika too.”

Universiti Malaya research consultant Prof Emeritus Datuk Dr Lam Sai Kit said since the Zika virus was first isolated in 1969 by a team of American scientists, a German traveller was diagnosed with mild Zika infection upon her return to Germany in September 2014, after visiting Sabah.


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Crucial to destroy aedes mosquito breeding grounds

Monday, February 1st, 2016

KOTA KINABALU: A public forum held here on Saturday highlighted the serious problem of an increasing rate of dengue fever in the country and therefore the urgent need to destroy breeding grounds for the Aedes mosquito which causes the disease.

Dr Timothy William, the Infectious Diseases Specialist (Dengue) of the Jesselton Medical Centre (JMC) said the matter needed to be taken seriously before the disease became more aggressive in Sabah.

“It is time to take it seriously because it is a major problem in our country. The dengue virus cannot live in any other host than a human,” he said.

“The problem with dengue is that when a person gets the fever, it will manifest just like the usual fever and the patient will not know if it is dengue or otherwise. Therefore, it is very important for the public to take precautionary measures and be aware of its danger. Dengue fever can be potentially fatal if left untreated.”

Timothy also did not deny that the sudden increase of dengue cases in Sabah might be due to the global climate change as the Aedes mosquito breeds easier in hot temperatures.


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Cancer mortality very high in M’sia: TAC

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

Kota Kinabalu: Cancer deaths have been declining in the United States and developed countries since the 1990s.

Deputy Chairman of Together Against Cancer Association Malaysia (TAC), Dr Lim Teck Onn, revealed this at the recent TAC-organised Malaysian Experience Exchange for Patient Organisations (Meepo) Capacity Building Workshop.

“In contrast, cancer mortality is very high in Malaysia. This is one of the two consequences of getting cancer in Malaysia.

For instance, there were 136,836 deaths in the population in 2012 and of this figure, 21,700 were cancer deaths,” he told the workshop.

According to him, 50 to 80pc of breast cancer deaths in Malaysia that year were avoidable while attributing this state of affairs to late presentation and lack of treatment.

“Statistics indicate that of the 2,572 breast cancer deaths, some 1299 were avoidable. Avoidable deaths due to late presentation totalled 647 and the remaining 652 deaths were due to lack of treatment.

“These avoidable deaths are not due to differences in the response to treatment or the type of breast cancer.

Rather these are deaths that might be avoided if cancer was caught earlier or if the patient received the appropriate treatment,” Dr Lim asserted.

The other consequence of getting cancer is financial distress and medical bankruptcy, prompting the deputy chairman to label cancer as financially toxic.

In his paper on Cancer Health Facts: Everything you need to know to protect yourself and your family from the consequences of cancer, the doctor said there are almost 40,000 new cancer cases (all cancers) in Malaysia every year.

The Top 10 Cancers in Malaysia are breast, intestine (colorectum), lung, cervix, throat (nasopharynx), stomach, blood (leukaemia), liver, lymphoma and ovary.

“Cancer is the fourth disease burden in Malaysia after circulatory diseases (heart disease, stroke, etc), infections (chest, HIV/AIDS, typhoid, TB, etc) and injuries (road injury, other forms of transport, etc),” said Dr Lim.

Meanwhile, 80 of the world’s top medical researchers will meet here in April to analyse the results of a major study on breast and ovarian cancer.

Cancer Research Malaysia chief executive officer Prof Dr Teo Soo Hwang said the results of the study involving 200,000 cancer patients and a similar number of healthy women would enable researchers to delve further into the biology of how the diseases develop.

“The results of this massive study will also help point the way as to how we might treat patients more effectively,” she said.

Dr Teo said the research involved analysing 600,000 genetic markers for each of the women who took part in the study.

“The depth of the research is incredible since it covers so much genome.

“This working meeting will enable us to finalise our results in this ultimate search for cancer genes,” she added.

She said the meeting would be attended by a consortium of medical researchers representing 44 organisations from 15 countries.

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Dengue cases expected to rise with onset of El-Nino

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

KOTA KINABALU: Dengue cases in the state and country are expected to rise with the onslaught of the El-Nino weather phenomenon.

This is because hot temperatures and dry weather accelerate the development of the Aedes mosquito from egg to an adult, state Health Department director Dr Christina Rundi said.

Dr Christina, in a statement yesterday, disclosed that under the hot and dry weather brought about by El-Nino, the cycle of a mosquito from egg to adult takes less than seven days.

“This will result in an increase in the mosquito population,” she warned.

Therefore, it is imperative that the public do not store water during the El-Nino phenomenon which is said will last until March this year, as they could be creating breeding grounds for the Aedes mosquitos, she said.

Dr Christina added that improper management and illegal dumping of rubbish could also contribute to the increase in mosquito population and number of dengue cases.

“The state Health Department would like to advise the public to carry out ‘search and destroy’activities in their compounds once a week. This is where they should spend at least 10 minutes a week to find and destroy mosquito breeding grounds.

“They should also ensure that all filled water containers be closed tightly and that they put on insect repellent as well as wear long sleeved attire when outside their houses, especially early in the morning and in the evenings.

“We also urge them not to throw rubbish indiscriminately,” Dr Christina said.

She urged any individuals experiencing symptoms such as fever, aching body, aching joints, nausea and headache to immediately seek treatment at the nearest clinic. This is because early treatment can help prevent complications brought about by dengue, including the fatality, she said.

Meanwhile, Dr Christina disclosed that 110 dengue fever cases were registered since January 9 this year, with Sandakan having the highest number at 38. Tawau recorded 16 cases while the state capital had 15 cases.

Dengue outbreaks were recorded in 25 localities, namely, Sandakan (15), Kota Kinabalu (three), Lahad Datu (three), Penampang (two) and one each in Tenom and Tawau during the same period. She also said that the Health Department had recorded a 100 per cent increase in the number of dengue fever cases in 2015 compared to 2014, she added.

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Malaysians Urged To Take Precautions If Heading To Countries Facing Zika Virus Outbreaks

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016

Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 20 (Bernama) — The Health Ministry wants Malaysians planning to visit countries affected by outbreaks of the Zika virus to take precautions to reduce the risk of infection.

Director-General of Health Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said pregnant women, especially in the first trimester, are also advised to defer travel to Brazil until the actual cause of the surfacing of microcephaly linked to the Zika virus in that country was determined.

Microcephaly is abnormal smallness of the head, a congenital condition associated with incomplete brain development.

“The Brazilian Health Ministry is carrying out further investigations on the actual cause for the increase in microcephaly cases in childbirths including the possibility there might be a link to Zika virus infection,” he said in a statement here today.

WHO Pan American Health Organisation reported that until the middle of this month, 17 countries in the Americas had reported Zika virus cases.

They are Brazil, Barbados, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guyana, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Paraguay, Surinam and Venezuela.

The Zika virus is spread to humans through the bites of the Aedes mosquito, the same vector that causes dengue fever. The symptoms are similar to dengue-like high fever, muscle ache, joint pains, headaches, pain in the rear of the eye, conjunctivitis and rashes.

“For now, there is no vaccine to prevent infection of the Zika virus and no specific medicine to treat the disease. Treatment given is to mitigate the symptoms,” said Dr Noor Hisham.


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Sabah dengue cases up due to hot spell

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016

Kota Kinabalu: Amid the hot weather caused by the ‘El Nino’ phenomenon, citizens face another ‘disaster’, that is the spread of dengue fever, as the disease-carrying aedes mosquito had seen its behaviour and life cycle change due to the heat.

Sabah Health Department Director Dr Christina Rundi (pic) said 110 dengue cases were recorded in the State from Jan 1 to 9, an increase of 41 cases or 59.4 per cent as compared to the corresponding period last year.

In a statement here, she said Tawau had the highest number of cases at 38, followed by Tawau (16) and Kota Kinabalu (15).

She added that the department was intensifying operations to check the spread of the menace in the State.

In MELAKA, Melaka Health Director Datuk Dr Ghazali Othman said the warm weather encouraged mosquitoes to become more aggressive and have a shorter-than-usual life cycle.

“Previously, the life cycle of a mosquito was a week, but it may be less than seven days in the hot weather, and it causes them to bite more aggressively.

“Therefore, the community needs to remain vigilant and keep residential areas clean and avoid them from becoming mosquito breeding grounds,” he said.

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Students neglecting breakfast

Friday, December 4th, 2015

Nurturing good habits: (From left) Dr Tee, deputy director, school management division in the Education Ministry Dr Zaharian Zainuddin and country business manager for Nestle Breakfast Cereals Nirmalah Thurai at the launch of the study.

Nurturing good habits: (From left) Dr. Tee, deputy director, school management division in the Education Ministry Dr. Zaharian Zainuddin and country business manager for Nestle Breakfast Cereals Nirmalah Thurai at the launch of the study

PETALING JAYA: Children who skip breakfast are 1.34 times more likely to be overweight or obese as well as suffer from other health issues, a study showed.

The two-year Nutrition Society of Malaysia (NSM) study involving 8,704 children from the ages of six to 17 showed that one out of four neglected to have their first meal of the day at least three times a week.

The study also indicated that among those who did take the time to eat breakfast, most preferred to eat fatty foods such as nasi lemak instead of nutritional meals like wholegrain cereals, adding to the rise of overweight and obese kids.

“Overweight and obese children are more likely to become obese adults and this will lead to a higher risk of acquiring diet-related chro­nic diseases in the future,” said NSM president Dr. Tee E. Siong in his speech during the unveiling of the key findings of the study yesterday.

The MyBreakfast Study of School Children, started in 2013 by both NSM and Nestle, has researchers studying the eating habits of schoolchildren in Malaysia in an effort to improve their nutritional status.

The full findings of the study will be revealed in the coming months as it is still ongoing.

The research also showed that while there were overweight children in the country, many were also suffering from under-nutrition, with prevalence of thinness at 6.4% and stunting at 7.2%.

Dr Tee, also the study’s principal investigator, said this was a cause for worry as these children would be more susceptible to infections and would suffer from a poorer quality of health as they got older.

He urged both children and their parents to make it a point to always have three meals a day and to add more wholegrain foods into their diet.

“Being the first meal of the day, breakfast provides the energy and nutrients for a proper start to the day.


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    Sabah has highest number of bilateral blindness patients

    Monday, November 9th, 2015


    Jainab (third left) receiving a gift of appreciation from Lions, District 308-A2 Governer, Dato’ Lawrence Ting.

    KOTA KINABALU: Sabah has the highest number of patients with bilateral blindness and most of them come from the rural areas.

    Head of the Eye Department in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Dr Sheena Alexander said most of the patients lacked knowledge on eye diseases and just as many could not afford the medical costs for treatment.

    Cataract is high on the list with 70.9 per cent of patients suffering from the ailment but 20.9 per cent of these eye patients also refuse surgery out of fear.

    “This puts Sabah among the top three states in the country with the highest number of eye patients afraid to opt for surgery,” she said when speaking at the World Sight Day 2015 celebration held here yesterday.

    The event was launched by the Minister of Community Development and Consumer Affairs, Datuk Jainab Ahmad Ayid.

    It was organised by the Lions Club of Kota Kinabalu by joining forces with the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) and the Sabah Society for the Blind.

    In reminding the public of the importance of eye tests, Sheena said diseases such as cataract, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy could lead to blindness if left unchecked.

    A survey by Malaysia’s Health Ministry showed that 33,000 eye patients in Sabah suffered from poor vision due to cataract and roughly 7, 800 of them are blind due to the same condition.

    Cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye leading to a decrease in vision and can affect one or both eyes. It is one of the greatest scourges that affect the elderly.

    Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness after cataract. It is an eye condition in which the optic nerve is damaged.

    “For those aged above 40, one in 100 has a chance of developing glaucoma without the person knowing it because there are no signs and symptoms,” said Dr Sheena.


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    HKL specialist: Many factors to current hike in typhoid cases

    Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

    KUALA LUMPUR: Kuala Lumpur Hospital confirmed it is currently treating patients for typhoid fever but not all are serious cases.

    HKL’s consultant physician and infectious diseases specialist Dr Leong Chee Loon said the current outbreak was being investigated and “anything else is merely speculation.”

    He said many factors could have caused the disease including the cleanliness of stalls, water and ice supplies.

    “However, there is just no way of knowing until a thorough investigation has been concluded.

    “Since there has been a rise in cases of typhoid, we know that we must be cautious. Those who show signs of fever, stomach aches and diarrhoea should go to the hospital or clinic immediately for an examination,” he said.

    The Health Ministry has said 32 cases of typhoid fever were recorded by the Kuala Lumpur Health Department since August this year.


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    Set aside more funds for healthcare, Govt urged

    Thursday, October 15th, 2015

    PETALING JAYA: The Government needs to allocate more of the Budget for the healthcare system.

    According to the World Health Organisation, Malaysia’s total expenditure on health as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) is 4% versus Singapore’s 4.6% in 2013. This includes public and private healthcare.

    Malaysia’s 2014 GDP totalled US$327bil over a population of 30 million versus Singapore’s US$308bil over a 5.5 million population.

    Universiti Malaya’s Medical Faculty Dean (development) and surgery professor Dr Azad Hassan Abdul Razack (pic left) said the transplant issue is a “reflection, a microcosm of the entire healthcare system”.“It seems to be neglected.”

    Dr Azad said Malaysia’s public healthcare spending against the country’s GDP is small.

    “Doctors and nurses in public healthcare are paid little but the coverage is wide and the patients get a lot of things for free or at a minimum cost.

    “Therefore, the lack of budget coupled with other issues prevent public healthcare from progressing to the next level in terms of innovative techniques and expertise.

    “In terms of GDP, public healthcare spending is not at a level recommended by WHO,” said Dr Azad.

    “We need to include the private sector, then only we will get more.”

    He said Malaysia’s healthcare system in terms of outreach is good – there is a clinic not far from one another.

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