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Number of HFMD cases expected to decline within next few weeks, says Malaysia health minister

Number of HFMD cases expected to decline within next few weeks, says Malaysia health minister

Officers from the Pahang Health Department visiting a childcare centre in Kuantan as part of a public health initiative to raise awareness on hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD). (Photo: Facebook/Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia)

KUALA LUMPUR: A decline in hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) cases can be expected within the next two to three weeks, said Malaysia’s Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin. 

At a press conference on Thursday (Jun 9), Mr Khairy said HFMD cases are seasonal and transmitted locally.

“Usually, the cases will start and become a wave but after a month, the number of cases will reduce. When many children are exposed to the virus, their immunity will go up and the number of cases will decrease,” he said.

Malaysia has experienced a sharp increase in the number of HFMD cases this year, following the reopening of economic sectors and schools.

Varying levels of movement restrictions were put in place from March 2020 until March 2022 to curb the spread of COVID-19. 

On Tuesday, Health Ministry director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah said a total of 82,846 HFMD cases have been reported as of the 22nd epidemiological week that ended on Jun 4. 

It was a 2.7-fold increase compared to the 30,489 cases recorded during the same period in 2019, and a 33-fold increase compared to the same period last year, he added.  

Weekly HFMD cases have fallen by 9.3 per cent, from 18,688 cases in the 21st week to 16,954 HFMD cases in the 22nd week, according to Dr Noor Hisham.

Selangor recorded the highest number of infections so far with 23,305 cases, followed by Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Perak, Kelantan and Johor.  

Almost 90 per cent of the cases recorded this year involved children below six years old, said the director-general.

Three children have been admitted to the intensive critical unit (ICU), with two of them suffering encephalitis, a brain inflammation. 

A total of 305 premises in the country have shut voluntarily while 1,041 premises have been ordered to close so far this year because of the disease, said Dr Noor Hisham. 

Mr Khairy said on Thursday that they have a theory on why the HFMD cases spiked this year.

“One, of course the pre-schools and nurseries have reopened. But if we compare it to 2019 before the pandemic, the cases are very high. For two years, children didn’t go out and were not exposed to the virus and their immunity levels also decreased,” he said during the press conference.

According to the ministry, symptoms of the disease include fever, mouth ulcers and skin rashes commonly found on hands, mouth or feet.

Some infected children, however, do not experience any symptoms.  

The disease is spread by direct contact with nose and throat discharges, saliva, feces and fluid from blisters of an infected person.  

Coughing and sneezing, sharing of eating utensils or personal belongings, as well as touching contaminated surfaces, can cause the infection to spread.

Source: CNA/rv(tx)


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