KUALA LUMPUR: Chronic complications arising from the hand, foot and mouth (HFMD) disease can lead to death, said Dr Norita Shamsudin, public health specialist in the Malaysia Health Ministry’s Disease Control Division, on Friday (Jul 27).
Dr Norita's remarks come amid an outbreak of HFMD across most of Malaysia, with official records showing 35,886 cases logged between Jan 1 and Jul 23 this year.
Health Minister Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad on Thursday said that parents must act as "gate-keepers" to make sure that children infected with HFMD do not go to school but are instead quarantined.
The disease can also be resolved more effectively if gate-keeping is performed at the entry points of schools, he added.
Dr Norita added on Friday that although HFMD is a mildly infectious contagious disease, the risks are high if it not treated early.
“Viral infections, especially Enterovirus 71 (EV71), can cause complications like dehydration, brain inflammation, heart and lung failure, and ultimately death. That is what worries us the most because the majority of HFMD cases this year are caused by EV71,” she said.
Dr Norita said the disease could infect anyone regardless of age, although almost 90 per cent of HFMD cases involved children below 5 years of age.
She added that a person who has had HFMD could still be infected again, depending on his or her body’s resistance.
“What is important is the preventive measures that must be taken by the parents and nursery operators to prevent the disease from spreading.
“Cleanliness must be stressed, and it is important that the child gets immediate treatment if there are signs of infection, and that (they are not taken) to public places,” she said.