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11 H1N1 cases; M’sia “ready to face pandemic”, says Liow

PETALING JAYA, 11 June 2009: Malaysia confirmed another two new Influenza A (H1N1) cases today, bringing the total so far to 11.

According to Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, the 10th case involved a 17-year-old student who visited her family in Melbourne from 7 to 9 June. She returned to Kuala Lumpur on 9 June on flight MH148, and was in seat 14A. She was warded at the Sg Buloh Hospital after showing symptoms of the disease and was confirmed positive for Influenza A(H1N1) late yesterday evening.

The 11th patient was a 41-year-old woman from Seberang Jaya, Penang, who went for a course in Manila on 31 May and returned to Penang on 6 June on Singapore Airlines flight SQ192, which transited in Singapore. She complained of fever on 9 June and was warded at the Penang Hospital yesterday. She was confirmed Influenza A(H1N1)-positive at 9am today.

Liow said both patients were being treated at the respective hospitals and their conditions were stable.

Despite no deaths being reported, the latest cases have raised grave concern for the Health Ministry, which feared that the consistently increasing number of imported cases would lead to local transmission, Liow said.

He said the ministry has taken more stringent measures at the country’s entry and exit points, including immediate quarantine in hospitals for those who showed symptoms of the influenza.
   
Apart from screening passengers who arrive by air from affected countries, health officials have also taken throat swabs of passengers who arrive from other countries.

He said flights from the affected countries, especially the US and Australia, would be given special attention.

To date, there are 27,824 confirmed cases of Influenza A(H1N1), with 141 deaths in 74 countries worldwide. The World Health Organisation (WHO), which called for an emergency meeting today, is on the verge of declaring the outbreak a pandemic, the first in more than 40 years.

Liow said Malaysia is prepared to face the pandemic and was ready to launch more drastic measures, including conducting more thorough checks, especially in institutions such as schools and kindergartens, if the WHO raised the alert level to the maximum 6.

“There is no need to close down [schools]. But we will [under]take appropriate level of screening at schools, and take more drastic actions to protect the people in this country,” he said.

Liow added that Health Department Director-General Tan Sri Dr Mohd Ismail Merican had also been instructed to come up with more comprehensive planning to face the pandemic, such as preparedness of the health frontliners and operation rooms, and
ways to contain local transmission.

Meanwhile, Dr Ismail, in a statement here, said the ministry was tracking down the passengers and crew of flight MH148 from Melbourne, and had also contacted Singapore Airlines for information on passengers of flight SQ192.

He said 178 people were placed under house quarantine today, although none of them showed any symptoms of the disease. — Bernama

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