Health Ministry: Slight increase in influenza cases but still within normal range

PETALING JAYA: The slight increase in influenza like-illness (ILI) and severe acute respiratory infections (Sari) recorded around the country since December is within the normal range and similar to previous years, says the Health Ministry.

The Ministry's director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah (pic) said the analysis by the National Public Health Laboratory in Sungai Buloh and the Institute of Medical Research on the influenza viruses detected did not show any sign of a mutation leading to the emergence of a new influenza virus, also known as a novel virus.

Recently, there have been many messages on social media warning about the rise of influenza cases in the country.

The Ministry had said previously that as a tropical country, Malaysia records influenza infections throughout the year, but at a very low rate.

In a statement on Saturday (Jan 4), Dr Noor Hisham said there were several steps that should be taken, especially when it comes to children under the age of five who have contracted influenza.

He said that if there was a need for medication, the appropriate dose of paracetamol should be given, in addition to tepid sponging of the head, legs and the body.

He added that the use of Non-Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS) should be avoided for fever as there was clinical evidence that showed its use may increase the risk of complications of influenza infections such as brain inflammation in children.

Dr Noor Hisham said those who are sick should be hydrated and seek medical advice immediately if the fever persisted or there were other influenza symptoms such as cold or flu, sore throat, cough, headache, muscle aches, joint pain and fatigue.

As precautions to prevent the spread of influenza infections, Dr Noor Hisham reminded the public to maintain high levels of hygiene, regularly wash their hands with water and soap or hand sanitiser, practise good manners when it comes to coughing and to adopt a healthy lifestyle.

"The general public and high-risk groups in particular are encouraged to obtain seasonal influenza vaccine offers at most private health facilities throughout the country," he said.

He added that those with symptoms of influenza are advised to stay at home and not to go to public places.

If there was a need to go to any public place, they are advised to wear a face mask to avoid the spread of infections through droplets of air.

Those who are considered to be at risk to develop complications from influenza include children under the age of five, the elderly, pregnant women, those with chronic diseases such as diabetes, the obese and those with low immune systems.

Influenza - which is not the same as the common cold - is a contagious respiratory illness that is contracted through droplets of air.

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