Ministry on ‘health watch’

Unhealthy weather: A woman wearing a face mask after visiting a clinic in Kuala Lumpur

KUALA LUMPUR: The number of asthma cases due to the haze saw an increase of 3.5% to 1,265 cases for the week of Sept 15 to Sept 21 compared to 1,222 cases in the previous week.

Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said conjunctivitis cases also rose 51.4% to 403 cases compared to 266 cases the week before.

“However, cases involving Upper Respiratory Tract Infection (URTI) showed a decline of 9.6% (8,258 to 7,465 cases), ” he said in a statement yesterday.

Dr Noor Hisham said the Health Ministry was constantly monitoring developments of health diseases related to the haze through its 33 Haze Sentinel Facilities around the country.

He advised those in the high-risk groups such as the elderly and children and those with existing respiratory-related ailments such as asthma, bronchitis and allergies to take appropriate preventive measures to limit the effects of the current haze.

Kepala Batas Hospital Emergency Unit chief Dr Shuhada Hanis Johani said the number of patients down with cough and flu was on the rise and advised the public to wear face masks while having outdoor activities.“The haze can severely affect infants and senior citizens, especially those with respiratory problems such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, ” she said.

Perak Health Department medico-legal officer Dr Norhalilah Abdullah also advised smokers and chronic patients to reduce outdoor activities.

She said due to their lack of immune system, patients with diabetes, hypertension, heart and lung diseases would have problems to breathe properly.

“Patients with chronic diseases need to be on the alert once the Air Pollutant Index (API) reaches more than 100.

“Their lungs are not as strong as those who are healthy, therefore during this haze crisis it is advisable for them to stay indoors and wear the N95 face masks if they are going out, ” she told The Star.

Dr Norhalilah added that the public must also purchase the right face mask, saying that although N95 mask was slightly more expensive, it was the most recommended type of face mask to wear during haze.

She said besides drinking at least two litres of plain water every day and consuming foods that could provide vitamins to enhance the immune system, it was important

to stay hydrated as haze contained bacteria and dust particle that could easily cause irritation and other diseases such as sore throat, coughing and eye infection.

Perak Department of Environment director Norazizi Adinan reminded the public to refrain from conducting open burning, saying that a ban on the activity had been enforced and those found doing so could be issued with a RM2,000 compound.

“They can be charged in court and can be fined up to RM500,000 or five years’ jail or both if convicted, ” he said.

The Education Ministry meanwhile said based on the latest haze conditions and API readings, all schools in the country would operate as usual today.

“Schools have been reminded to follow the standard operating procedures and to ensure the health of students and teachers at all times, ” the ministry said in a statement.

For the latest update on the haze, the public are asked to visit or to refer to the ministry’s Facebook, Instagram or Twitter at @kempendidikan.

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Air Pollutant Index , API


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