KUALA LUMPUR: The Batek orang asli in Kuala Koh, Kelantan could be infected with bacteria with a secondary viral infection possible, but tuberculosis (TB) and leptospirosis have been ruled out, says Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad.
The Health Minister said the ministry hoped to be able to nail the offending pathogen soon.
"We will continue to take samples from the environment," he said during a live press conference in Gua Musang that streamed on the ministry's Facebook today.
Dr Dzulkefly said the place was a manganese mine, and as such lung disease could be one of the health issues to emanate from mining.
"We will find out the cause of the pulmonary diseases," he said after ruling out TB and leptospirosis.
He said 49 of the orang asli had been given in-patient treatment, with one in ICU, while another 47 were given outpatient treatment.
On June 8, Sinar Harian reported that 13 orang asli at the village had died of a "mysterious disease." The orang asli suspect it may be due to the water they use daily from their pond (air tandak).
On Monday, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department P. Waytha Moorthy confirmed that 14 orang asli in Kuala Koh, Kelantan had died from May 2 to June 7.
The villagers confirmed that 13 people died while one more person was found dead near the mining area on Saturday, he said after visiting the affected families in Gua Musang, Kelantan.
At the press conference, Waytha said that the number of deaths remained at 14 according to the orang asli.
The Health Ministry has confirmed only two deaths, while the other bodies had been buried by the community.
Asked if the other bodies would be exhumed to investigate the cause of the death, Dr Dzulkefly said the ministry would if there was a need.