Sunday, June 14, 1998

Alert on HFM disease

By Emily Mathews

KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry has issued an alert to parents to seek treatment for children who experience symptoms of hand, foot and mouth (HFM) disease as a precautionary measure following a similar outbreak in Taiwan recently.

Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng, in issuing the advice, also urged parents and guardians to keep infected children away from kindergartens, nurseries and other public places.

"Any child showing signs of HFM should be taken for treatment," Chua told reporters at his office here yesterday.

"Nursery and kindergarten operators must also fulfil their duty to ensure that children with HFM symptoms are not allowed to attend classes," he said.

HFM symptoms include fever, sore throat, headaches, loss of appetite, throat and mouth ulcers and blisters or rashes on hands, feet and diaper area.

Chua said this was part of the ministry's pro-active and precautionary steps, adding that that so far there were no cases of Enterovirus 71 (EV 71) here.

"We are advising parents now as we are concerned about the recent outbreak of EV 71 in Taiwan which has already claimed the lives of 34 young children," said Chua.

Last year Malaysia experienced a similar outbreak which claimed the lives of 47 children, whose ages ranged from four months to six years old.

Although Taiwan had said that the situation was under control, Chua said, the ministry was concerned about the possibility of its spreading here.

On visitors from Taiwan, Chua said health officers would screen those suspected of being infected.

"However, we will not bar Taiwan visitors from entering Malaysia," he said.

Chua said that the ministry was also monitoring the number of HFM cases at district levels daily.

Compared to last year, he said incidence of HFM had dropped significantly from about 6,000 admissions to only 343 cases (between January to May) this year.


Copyright 1998 Star Publications (M) Bhd (No. 10894-D).