KUALA LUMPUR: Manganese poisoning should not be excluded as a possible cause of the deaths of 15 Bateq people in Kuala Koh, says medical expert Dr Steven Chow.
The government should do more tests to rule out manganese poisoning as the reason for the deaths.
“We believe the declaration of a measles outbreak is a red herring. Other causes of deaths must be looked into as well,” he said.
Dr Chow, who is also president of the Federation of Private Medical Practitioners’ Associations Malaysia (FPMPAM), said tests on samples collected from the water supply area in the forest, piped water from the village’s source in Sungai Pertak as well as water collected from the river showed high traces of manganese.
FPMPAM tests found the level of manganese to be 2.53mg/L, which is 2,500% above the normal level of 1mg/L.
Dr Chow said the first two deaths in the village were due to “lobar pneumonia”, which was not consistent with measles.
“The usual presentation of measles affecting the lungs is interstitial pneumonia and not lobar pneumonia,” he claimed.
He added that there were no cases of measles detected during the group’s visit to Kampung Kuala Koh in April.
However, they discovered other health problems plaguing the community such as malnutrition, fungal infections including tinea imbricata, upper respiratory tract infections and gastrointestinal problems.
The group also found that two patients were suffering from neurological problems, including then Tok Batin Hamdan Keladi, who showed signs of a stroke.
Dr Chow also revealed that Hamdan’s brother had slurred speech.
On June 17, the Health Ministry announced the cause of the deaths as measles based on laboratory tests, which found that 37 out of 112 people examined had tested positive for it.