PENANG: The main cause of the outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) in Penang has been identified as contact with supermarket trolley handlebars and child rides at shopping malls.
According to The Sun Daily on Monday (Jul 23), investigations by officials found that toys and chairs in malls were also among the main causes.
In a letter issued by the southwest district health office, authorities also advised shopping malls to disinfect such items, the report added.
The number of HFMD cases has dropped for three consecutive days since last Thursday though the cumulative number of cases is still high, according to Dr Afif Bahardin, the state's health, agriculture and agro-based industry and rural development committee chairman.
He said there were 78 cases recorded on Thursday which dropped to 52 on Friday and 51 on the following day.
“Despite the drop in new cases, the cumulative number is still high, at 2,341 cases as at Jul 21, compared to 1,099 cases in the same period last year,” he told reporters on Monday.
Afif said 30 premises remained closed, involving 10 kindergartens, seven nurseries, six primary schools, six preschool classes and one childcare centre.
He added that nine HFMD-infected children had been hospitalised.
Meanwhile, the state health department does not plan to close public playgrounds and amusement centres in shopping malls, he said.
In addition, he responded to claims circulating on social media of HFMD fatalities, saying that there was no such confirmation yet pending a mortality review by the health department, the Star Online reported.
In an update on Tuesday, officials said there were 3,852 cases reported last week - a 64.2 per cent increase compared to the week before.
Cumulatively, 35,886 cases have been reported since the start of the year, with 469 schools shut down to date, including 217 nurseries, 223 kindergartens or preschools and several classrooms from 27 schools.
A total of 1,077 students from pre-school onwards have been affected between Jul 12 and Jul 23, Malaysia's Deputy Minister of Education Teo Nie Ching told Channel NewsAsia. Out of these students, 178 were from the state of Johor.
Three pre-schools in Johor were ordered closed by the health ministry last week, the New Straits Times reported, though so far no primary school in the state has been ordered to close.
Other areas of Malaysia have also reported high numbers of HFMD cases, with Melaka last week recording an almost 50 per cent increase in the number of cases since the beginning of the year.
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.