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Swine flu: Monitoring stepped up at entry points (Updated)

Updated 8:13pm, 27 April 2009

JOHOR BARU, 27 April 2009: The government has stepped up monitoring at all entry points of the country in view of the swine flu outbreak in Mexico, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said today.

“The Health Ministry will work closely with other government agencies, including the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry, at all these entry points,” he told reporters after closing the Malaysia Unit Trust Week 2009 at Plaza Angsana here.

Muhyiddin was asked what steps the government had taken following the swine flu outbreak in Mexico which has so far claimed 81 lives.

The disease is reported to have spread to the United States, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) has expressed fear of it spreading around the world.   

Advising the people not to panic, Muhyiddin said the protocol used by government agencies during the bird flu outbreak would be applied and tightened to prevent any outbreak of swine flu in the country.

Muhyiddin said the people would be educated, through the dissemination of leaflets by the Health Ministry, on what precautions to take so as not to contract swine flu.

He said Malaysia would also cooperate with international agencies, including WHO and centres for vector-borne disease control, to learn more about the latest strain of swine flu.

“We will cooperate and obtain more information (on swine flu) to enable us to take the appropriate measures in the country,” he said.

In KUALA LUMPUR, Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the government has advised Malaysians to postpone trips to Mexico, Canada and several states in the United States such as New York, California, Texas, Kansas and Ohio in view of a swine flu outbreak there.

Liow said the World Health Organisation (WHO) had not imposed any restriction on travel to those places but the people had to be careful so as to prevent the spread of the disease.

“If they do not have important matters to attend to, they should wait until the situation in those countries permitted their travel there,” he told reporters after witnessing the handing over of the Joint Commission International (JCI) accreditation to the Prince Court Medical Centre, here.

He said the authorities were cooperating with WHO to introduce preventive measures and added that the Health Ministry had contacted the relevant agencies including the Veterinary Services Department to monitor the situation and prevent the spread of the disease and was looking into a suitable vaccine. 

“We have the normal influenza vaccine but for the current H1N1 strain (of swine flu), we have to study the suitable vaccine to be used,” he said, adding that the suitable vaccine would be supplied to the pig breeders for their livestock.

Later, at the KL International Airport in Sepang, Liow visited the health examination counter, and said thermographic gadgets would be installed at the main entry points of the country by this week as a preventive measure.

He said the gadget would facilitate a health examination without the need for a manual process.

“The ministry is in the process of buying the gadgets. We had loaned them during the avian flu epidemic several years ago,” he told reporters.

Liow also said that visitors flying in from the United States, Canada and Mexico would be required to complete a form if they showed signs of having fever, cough and difficulty breathing.

“These people will be given treatment to ascertain their health status,” he said, adding that the Serdang and Putrajaya hospitals had been turned into quarantine centres for the purpose.

Meanwhile in PUTRAJAYA, all 797 pig farms in Malaysia have been ordered to report immediately to the authorities any dip in the health of the livestock in view of the swine flu outbreak in Mexico.

Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Noh Omar said today the pig breeders should watch out for signs of the animals coughing, sneezing, having difficulty breathing or not wanting to eat.

They should also keep a watch on the health of their workers and detect any sign of coughing, fever and body ache, he told reporters here.

The breeders can report to the nearest Veterinary Services Department or directly to the Vector-borne Disease Control Centre at 03-887002041 or SMS to 32255.

Noh said rapid action teams had been instructed to be on standby and would be rushed to the states when necessary.  

He advised the people not to be overly concerned as no livestock or livestock products were imported from Mexico where as many as 103 deaths are thought to have been caused by swine flu.

In PENANG, the state Veterinary Services Department is to conduct an examination and collect samples at 200 pig farms to ensure the livestock is free of swine flu.

State Agriculture and Agro-based Industry, Rural Development and Flood Mitigation Committee chairperson Law Choo Kiang told reporters pig breeders were advised to take the necessary precautions to ensure the health of their livestock.

He said they should report to the Veterinary Services Department if any of their livestock fell ill and they should isolate the sick animals immediately.

“There are about 300,000 pigs in the state and the breeders are advised to offer their cooperation and abide by the directives of the authorities,” he said.

Meanwhile, state Health, Caring Society, Welfare and Environment Committee chairperson Phee Boon Poh said the state health department had opened an operations room to monitor the disease.

He said the department was conducting checks and monitoring the situation at supermarkets, markets and outlets selling pork-based products. — Bernama

See also: Pork imports should stop immediately

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