JOHOR BAHRU: Five children were quarantined on Sunday (Feb 24) at a hospital in the Malaysian state of Johor after they tested positive for diphtheria.
They were believed to have been in contact with a two-year-old boy who died three days ago after suffering from a severe case of the disease.
Johor Health, Environment and Agriculture Committee chairman Sahruddin Jamal said the children, three girls and two boys aged four years and below, included the toddler's older sister.
"They were among 52 people who underwent screening for diphtheria because they had been in contact with the deceased and the presence of corynebacterium diphteria was detected in the samples of their throat tissue,” he told reporters after visiting the children at Sultanah Aminah Hospital.
He said the children were in a stable condition.
Three of them were expected to be allowed to return home on Monday, he added.
Dr Sahruddin said the deceased’s sister, who had never been immunised, and another boy still required treatment.
He added that the deceased’s mother, who is pregnant, was also screened for diphtheria and tested negative for the disease.
According to Dr Sahruddin, two diphtheria cases were reported in Johor last year, including a 14-month-old child who died. Six cases, including the boy who died, have been reported so far this year in the state.
He advised parents whose children had yet to be vaccinated against the disease to get the immunisation at government or private clinics.
"If the federal government wants to make immunisation mandatory or impose punishment or penalties on those who reject having it done, I strongly agree (with the proposal)," he told reporters.
He said this in response to a statement by Malaysia's health minister Dzulkefly Ahmad on Saturday that the ministry would draw up a proposal and policy for child immunisation to be made mandatory.