Sarawak preparing to face HFMD outbreak

KUCHING: Sarawak is bracing for a major outbreak of the Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) next year, said state Environment and Public Health Minister Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh.

This, he said, was based on the cycle of HFMD outbreaks, which occurred every three years in the state.

“Monitoring of HFMD is ongoing and will be intensified in anticipation of the outbreak in 2009,” he said in reply to Chiew Chiu Sing (DAP – Kidurong) in the state assembly.

In addition, Wong said the Sarawak Health Department had intensified visits to child-care centres and kindergartens to raise awareness on HFMD and conduct measures to control it.

A programme by the Sarawak Health Department and the Institute of Health and Community Medicine at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak discovered outbreaks of HFMD every three years – in 1997, 2000, 2003 and 2006.

The outbreak in 1997 was due to EV71, which killed 30 children aged below five years. It was the first time that EV71 was recognised in Malaysia.

Wong said that, from Dec 30 last year to Oct 18 this year, 6,666 cases were reported compared to 6,332 for the corresponding period last year.

“Kuching recorded the highest number with 2,417 cases followed by Miri (1,027), Bintulu (828) and Sibu (761),” he said, adding that one death had been reported in Sibu.

As of Oct 24, a total of 52 kindergartens, child-care centres and pre-schools had been served with closure orders or closed voluntarily.

Wong advised parents and child-care centres to practise good hygiene and observe cleanliness to prevent the disease from spreading. — Bernama

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