KUALA LUMPUR, 9 July 2009: The country moved from containment to mitigation stage of the Influenza A(H1N1) outbreak today.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the transition was necessary as there were clusters of local transmission of the disease, or sustained spreading within the community, as well as new cases that had no defined epidemiological link with existing ones.
The decision to shift from containment to mitigation was reached after 12 workers at a private company in Cyberjaya and six trainees at the Malaysian Maritime Academy in Melaka tested positive for the virus.
The decision to raise the level of seriousness is based on the World Health Organisation (WHO) guideline, which specially spells out the action to be taken to deal with the influenza-like disease as its spread in the country reached the third-generation stage.
The WHO representative for Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, Dr Han Theru, said it was the right time for Malaysia to move to the mitigation stage as it needed to focus more on how to reduce the damage to patients and society as more local cases were detected.
“I believe it would be a gradual process because at mitigation you need to focus on patients, early detection, early treatment and early diagnosis so that the patients can be treated and fully recover,” he said.
Dr Han said that while Malaysia moved from the containment to the mitigation stage, there were some other measures such as screening at airports that could be maintained as it was still effective in detecting patients.
“Some countries such as Singapore have stopped contact tracing but still maintain screening at the airport,” he said.
The containment stage is to slow down the spread of the virus from both outside and inside the country. Under the mitigation stage, measures would be taken to slow down the spread of the infection within the country.
Liow explained that the mitigation phase involved three measures, with the first being prevention and control, including social distancing, reducing public interaction, and practising self-hygiene.
The second measure was for mild cases without any complications to be given outpatient treatment. Only high-risk groups, including those involving asthma, chronic respiratory illnesses, diabetes, organ failure, obesity and pregnant women, will be hospitalised.
The triaging of patients would continue to be implemented at medical facilities. Patients with mild flu-like symptoms, including fever and cough, will undergo self-quarantine at home instead of being isolated in hospitals as the third measure, he said.
“Countries including China and Hong Kong have already moved into mitigation, but we were still in the containment phase because we are able to control the situation. But when we look at the cluster of cases happening, we have to quickly revise our strategy to prepare ourselves and the people early,” Liow added.
Liow said as of today, 61 new cases were reported throughout the country, and 24 of them were locally transmitted cases.
The latest addition raises the number of cases in the country to 574, comprising 415 import cases and 159 locally transmitted cases, but no fatalities reported.
From the 574 cases, 472 or 82.2% had recovered after treatment and had been discharged from hospitals, while 102 continue to receive treatment.
According to WHO statistics, 98,873 cases have been reported worldwide in 135 countries, with 442 deaths. — Bernama