JOHOR BAHRU: Singapore families who travel across the Causeway for shopping and leisure activities do not need to fear their children contracting hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) if they take the necessary precautions, the state’s health, environment and agriculture executive committee chairman Sahruddin Jamal said on Thursday (Aug 2).
Speaking to Channel NewsAsia in Johor Bahru, Dr Sahruddin said there was “absolutely no issue” for families from neighbouring Singapore to enjoy Johor’s amenities and attractions provided they maintain good hygiene habits.
His comments come in the wake of local reports citing a spike in HFMD cases in Johor.
The southern Malaysian state recorded a total of 2,215 HFMD cases from Jan 1 until Jul 21 this year, up 37 per cent from the 1,607 cases recorded within the same period last year.
The increasing trend of HFMD cases was recorded across all Malaysian states, prompting the health ministry to issue a warning in June.
Last Monday, Malaysia confirmed its first fatality from HFMD after a 17-month-old boy died in Penang.
Dr Sahruddin, who is a trained medical doctor, told Channel NewsAsia that so far this year, 39 schools have been shut after at least two or three of their students contracted HFMD.
However he stressed that they would typically re-open after a couple of days of disinfection.
Dr Sahruddin also advised Singaporean families who cross the Causeway to bring along a hand sanitiser and “use it often”.
“Get the children to use it as many times as possible," said the state assemblyman for Bukit Kepong.
"Children touch things all the time - supermarket trolleys, food court tables, toys - so we must ensure they keep themselves sanitised.”
Dr Sahruddin added that if the children return home to Singapore and catch a fever, it “is important” that they see a doctor for further treatment.
Responding to a question about further preventive action if the increasing trend of HFMD cases in Johor continues, Dr Sahruddin said his office regularly sends HFMD reports to the health ministry before awaiting further instructions from the federal government.
“For now, it’s not necessary to take temperatures of children at the Causeway," he said.
"For the time being, we want to mitigate the spread of the virus, and educate families on how to prevent it."
HFMD is a viral infection which can affect both adults and children, though young children below the age of five are more susceptible, according to Singapore's Ministry of Health.
It is spread from person to person by direct contact with nasal discharge, saliva, faeces, and fluids from the rash of an infected person.
It can also spread through contact with contaminated objects and surfaces.