October 8, 2008
Sarawak on Alert for Disease Outbreak
KUCHING: Sarawak is on high alert for the hand, foot and mouth disease after one Enterovirus 71 (EV71) case was detected following the death of a 4-year-old boy from Sibu last week.
Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan said the Health Department was stepping up prevention and control measures.
From the department's statistics released yesterday, 5,686 cases of HFMD had been reported so far this year.
Kuching received the highest number of reported cases with 2,187, followed by Miri (889), Bintulu (781) and Sibu (532). The rest were reported in smaller towns.
"Except for the death of the boy in Sibu last week, none of the cases involved EV71, which potentially causes death," said Dr Chan, who is also chairman of the state disaster and relief management committee.
"In Sarawak, it is like a cycle where every three years, we will have a case of EV71. For this year, the situation is under control."
Dr Chan urged parents with young children and operators of childcare centres to practise good hygiene at all times.
"From our experience, once EV71 starts, it will spread very quickly. Although there is no outbreak yet, the situation will worsen if parents do not take the disease seriously."
At present, there is no specific effective anti-virul drugs and vaccine for the treatment of HFMD. Symptomatic treatment is given to provide relief from fever, aches, or pain from the mouth ulcers.
Dehydration is a concern because the mouth sores may make it painful for children to eat and drink.
"Although HFMD occurs mainly in children under 10 years' old, it may also occur in adults. Everyone is at risk of infection, but not everyone who is infected becomes ill."
Sarawak's last major outbreak of HFMD was in 2006, when more than 14,000 cases and 13 deaths were reported.
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