No mutation of influenza virus despite growing cases in schools, says Malaysian Health Ministry
KUALA LUMPUR: Despite an increasing number of influenza cases in Malaysia, there has been no change or mutation of the virus, said the Health Ministry on Tuesday (Jan 21) amid fears of an outbreak in schools.
In a statement, Health Director-General Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said based on analysis of influenza activity trends, the consultation rate for influenza-like illness (ILI) and the admission rate of patients with severe acute respiratory infection (SARI) have indeed increased compared to the previous week.
“However, a lab surveillance by the Institute of Medical Research and the National Public Health Laboratory found that there were no signs of changes or mutation to the virus that is currently spreading,” he said.
"SITUATION UNDER CONTROL"
Dr Noor Hisham said his ministry was working with the Ministry of Education to monitor the situation in educational institutions.
He went on to explain that the majority of respiratory tract infections which were reported in the first three weeks of the year involved educational institutions.
“Some of the factors which contributed to this include how students mingle around freely during school hours. But rest assured that the ministry has the situation under control,” he said.
The director-general said thus far only two schools - a secondary school in Perak and a primary school in Sabah - have been closed due to influenza infections.
"The ministry understands the public concern over this issue. However, we would like to state that not all flu cases are caused by influenza virus infection."
On Monday, it was reported that Selangor had the highest number of school students affected by influenza.
NO ADDITIONAL PRECAUTIONS FOR NOW
When asked by CNA, parents and teachers said there have been no instructions for additional precautions to be taken.
“I’m worried but I can’t just let my child skip school, because ultimately it’ll affect their studies,” said Mdm Joey Tan from Petaling Jaya.
The mother of four who sends her children to public schools shared that she was worried they would miss out on homework.
“However, I did contact the school teacher and she said there has been no instructions from the school for the children to wear masks or carry sanitisers or anything like that,” she said to CNA on Tuesday.
Similarly, Mdm Nicole Naema from Subang Jaya said her daughter’s pre-school had not said anything to the parents.
“We are worried but we are also taking all the precautions. Besides the school itself, it’s also important that parents don’t send their children to school if they’re sick,” she said.
The Parent-Teacher Association of SK Tropicana also told CNA that they had not received any instructions from the Health Ministry on closing the school.
“We believe unless someone is affected, the school is good to go on, but we can’t decide on anything unless the ministry approves it. Anyway, school holidays are coming, so it’s okay,” said a representative.
Many schools will be closed for around a week starting Thursday due to Chinese New Year.
VACCINE SHORTAGE EXPECTED TO EASE
Last week, many private clinics had said they were running low on influenza vaccines.
In Dr Noor Hisham's statement, he said of the 99,470 doses of vaccines that were due to arrive in January, 16,839 doses have passed quality evaluation on Tuesday and are ready to be distributed.
In addition, 15,000 more doses have also arrived but have yet to pass the quality evaluation by National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency, he said. The remaining 67,631 doses will arrive around the end of the month, he added.
He explained that on top of this, 35,100 doses of the vaccines have been brought in from a separate supplier this week to cope with the current demand.