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Health Ministry prepares to raise H1N1 seriousness level

PUTRAJAYA, 6 July 2009: It’s just matter of time before the health authorities in the country decide to raise the level of seriousness in dealing with Influenza A(H1N1) from containment to mitigation stage, as more cases of local transmission are being reported.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the health authorities are likely to raise the level in the next few days, once they decide that there is sustained community spread and new cases have no defined epidemiological links with existing ones.

Liow said at the moment, the health authorities were still able to trace the contacts of people afflicted, but he stressed that more campaigns were needed to raise awareness and to keep the situation under control.

“Therefore, we will continue to stress on the importance of personal hygiene. This includes washing your hands and wearing a mask if you have flu, sneezing and coughs,” he said.

He said as Malaysia prepared to enter the migitation stage on H1N1, the public needed to be told more on the “dos and don’ts”, as well as the need to balance “business-as-usual with containment measures”.

Liow added that the health authorities were bracing for more cases as the pandemic is likely to last nearly a year.

Health Director-General Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican explained that while the H1N1 fatality rate was only 0.2%, it could spread very quickly from human to human due to its uniqueness.

“We are worried about the impact on those having complications such as lung problems. The virus can spread within one metre between a carrier and another person,” he said.

The fatality rate is considered to be low in this region, even though 281 deaths have been reported.

Although the vaccine for H1N1 would only be available by August this year, it is a curable disease, and the government has a stockpile of two million Tamiflu shots for treatment of those infected, Ismail added.

According to the latest World Health Organisation (WHO) information,  Influenza A(H1N1) has spread to 126 countries, with 91,457 cases and 387 deaths reported as of 8am today. Thirty-eight countries have reported local transmissions, and 11 with substantial human-to-human transmission cases. — Bernama

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