March 3, 2006

Malaysia shuts 500 nursery schools to curb disease

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia has ordered the closure
of nearly 500 kindergarten schools on the island of Borneo
after four children died of the hand, foot and mouth viral
disease, official news agency Bernama said on Friday.

Sarawak, one of the two eastern Malaysian states on Borneo,
has reported four deaths from the disease, the agency said.

Health officials have called for 488 schools to be shut for
two weeks in an effort to contain the spread of the disease,
Health Minister Chua Soi Lek told reporters.

"This action is taken to cut off the transmission of the
infection of the disease, which increased markedly in Sarawak,"
the agency quoted Chua as saying.

Hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) is a viral infection
common in children and results in fever, mouth sores and a
blistering rash, usually on the hands and feet. It is unrelated
to foot-and-mouth disease, a disease of cattle, sheep and

Children are most susceptible to HFMD, but adults can also
be affected.

Malaysia reported 13 cases of the disease in 2001, in its
southern-most state of Johor, bordering Singapore. The previous
year four children died of the disease, and an outbreak in 1997
killed 13.