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Health Ministry steps up measures to tackle pandemic (Updated 6.25pm)

Updated at 6.25pm, 12 June 2009

PUTRAJAYA, 12 June 2009: The Health Ministry is to step up surveillance, preventive and control measures now that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared Influenza A(H1N1) a pandemic, Director-General of Health Tan Sri Dr Mohd Ismail Merican said today.

The ministry would be guided by the National Influenza Pandemic Preparedness Plan (NIPPP) drawn up in 2005, he said, adding that since that year, the ministry had made preparations that included training and stockpiling of medicine and personal protective equipment.

He said besides continuing with the existing preventive measures, the ministry would also inform clinics and private and government hospitals to identify those with influenza symptoms and determine whether they had just returned from abroad or had come into contact with those who had returned from overseas recently.

The ministry would also get the community and doctors to alert the health authorities if they came across an outbreak in their locality.

“For instance, if one clinic says they have 50 patients with a flu-like illness … they have to alert us so that we can conduct further investigation,” he told reporters here.

Ismail said the ministry would get the assistance of the National Security Council and reactivate the national inter-ministerial committee chaired by Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.

Ismail said social distancing strategies, including closing schools and institutions and cancelling assemblies or public gatherings, would also be effected, but only if it was found that the flu was circulating in the country.

So far, he said, there had been no case of the disease spreading locally as the 11 reported cases were imported ones.

Ismail said the ministry would seek the cooperation of the local authorities to undertake more regular checks of toilets in public places such as community halls and shopping complexes to ensure cleanliness and prevent infection. Cooperation from the Information, Communication and Culture Ministry was also needed for more regular dissemination of information on ways to prevent an epidemic.

He further said the public needed to play a role in maintaining good hygiene, including using masks in public places if they had symptoms of flu and to always wash their hands with soap and water, as ways of preventing the spread of the disease.

He said the ministry had requested the cooperation of airlines to ensure that passengers completed the health declaration forms so as to detect cases of the flu.

On the current situation, Ismail said seven of the 11 cases had been treated and the patients discharged from hospital, while the remaining four remained under treatment.

He said the ministry had received 32 notifications on cases with influenza-like symptoms among those who returned to Malaysia. Of that number, 23 were found to be negative. while nine were still waiting for the test results.

“Over the last 24 hours, 46 confirmed contact cases have completed their quarantine and 111 new contact cases have been detected, bringing the total number of those under house quarantine to 243. All of them are healthy,” Ismail said.

According to WHO, there were 28,820 cases with 144 deaths globally as of yesterday, an increase of 996 cases and three deaths from the previous day. — Bernama

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