KUALA LUMPUR: As haze continued to blanket parts of Malaysia, clinics in the Klang Valley reported a spike in the number of patients seeking treatment for cough and respiratory infection.
Several private clinics noted the upward trend this month, as parts of Malaysia recorded unhealthy air levels which the environment ministry blamed on transboundary haze from Indonesia.
Dr Kavitha Ramochandran from Klinik Nadia in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur, said on Friday (Sep 13) that she has been treating between 20 and 30 patients a day for upper respiratory tract infections of late, a rise from the usual 10 to 15 a day.
"That is serious," she said.
Dr Kavitha added that even when patients contracted respiratory infection from other sources, it could take them longer to heal due to the unhealthy air.
"Patients with asthma are also experiencing attacks that are more severe than usual, and I can say that it’s definitely because of the haze," she said.
Marketing executive Ms Michelle Nonis, 33, said she suffered a serious asthma attack two days after she returned to Malaysia from Sydney.
"When I flew back on Monday, I could see how bad the haze was.
"My inhaler couldn't relieve my situation, and I had to use the nebuliser in my neighbourhood clinic," she said.
Another clinic in Segambut, Klinik Mediviron, also noted that more patients showed up with ailments such as cough, chest phlegm and cold last week.
The receptionist, who declined to be named, said the clinic usually saw between 50 and 100 of such cases in a month, but received the same number within a week since the haze arrived.
Malaysia is among the Southeast Asian nations affected by the annual haze caused by the slash-and-burn agricultural practice in Indonesia.
Indonesia on Friday rejected Malaysian complaints about hazardous smoke drifting from its forest fires across the border, saying blazes were also raging in parts of Malaysia and on Malaysian-owned plantations in Indonesia.
MODERATE TO UNHEALTHY AIR IN WEST MALAYSIA
As of 11am on Friday morning, air quality in Peninsular Malaysia ranged between moderate and unhealthy, according to data recorded by the air monitoring stations.
Johan Setia in Klang, Selangor, was the worst-affected area with a “very unhealthy” Air Pollution Index (API) of 213, said the Department of Environment (DoE).
The high reading was contributed by fires that happened nearby and haze from Indonesia, it added.
A total of 29 schools in Selangor were ordered to close, affecting 45,265 students.
While schools in Kuala Lumpur remained open, Mdm Liyana Arif, a housewife, said she decided not to send her child to school.
"My nine-year-old has been asthmatic since birth, and although she hasn't had any attacks, I don't want to risk it," she said.
In Rompin, Pahang, where 16 schools were closed on Thursday, bus driver Mdm V. Saratha said many of the children were coughing and sneezing.
"I also fell sick and was unable to drive for three days," the 44-year-old said.
The Malaysian Health Department director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah advised Malaysians to stay indoors when the API readings hit 100.
“This is especially pertinent to children and those suffering from respiratory illnesses and heart problems as they would be more affected by exposure to haze,” he said in a statement on Thursday.