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Borneo, Sarawak, Sarawakian

Sarawak reaches outbreak level of hand, foot and mouth disease

IT is very worrying that hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) has reached outbreak level in Sarawak.

The Health Ministry categorises the situation as an outbreak once the number of cases reaches beyond 327.

Two weeks ago there were 757 cases! Although this dropped to 460 cases last week, the level still far exceeds the minimum number of cases for an outbreak to be declared.

Last August, I already posted a warning that an outbreak could occur if parents did not take the right measures to ensure the hygiene of their children.

At that time, the State already recorded 914 cases of HFMD – the highest for the country then.

There was also a terrible outbreak in Vietnam, with some 32,000 infected by HFMD then and a total of 81 children killed.

Many Sarawakians would remember the horror of 1997, when between April 15 and June 30, 31 previously healthy infants and young children died after an outbreak of HFMD.

Sibu was badly affected during this outbreak with 11 deaths followed by Sarikei with seven deaths.

It was indeed a terrifying time for parents with young children because we did not understand what we were dealing with initially.

Now that we know, we really should not be complacent.

Despite HFMD having reached outbreak level, many parents still seem all too happy to let their children wander about in public places in their pyjamas in the evenings. From shopping centres to eateries and even parks, children can be seen playing in their pyjamas and are more than likely going off to bed in the same outfits later.

Parents are also quite unconcerned about hand washing before meals and particularly after using the toilet. Oftentimes both children and adults do not use soap to wash their hands after using the toilet.

The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) points out that keeping hands clean through improved hand hygiene is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others.

Many diseases and conditions are spread by not washing hands with soap and clean, running water.

If soap and water are unavailable, the CDC suggests using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser that contains at least 60 per cent alcohol to clean hands.

It also suggests washing hands:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal or animal waste
  • After touching garbage

What is the right way to wash your hands?

Hands being washed

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold) and apply soap.
  • Rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub them well; be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Continue rubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  • Rinse your hands well under running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

The State government has taken proactive measures such as stopping children from entering schools if they are sick to prevent the spread of HFMD and closing schools where there are cases.

But what are we as parents and guardians doing on our part?

Besides keeping children’s hygiene in check, we should also monitor them to ensure they do not have the symptoms.

For guidelines on HFMD symptoms, prevention and statistics, go to the Sarawak Health Department’s page here.

Please Sarawakian parents and guardians, let’s all do our part to ensure HFMD does not reach the levels of 1997 ever again.

We have so much information on prevention methods now, let’s make sure to practise them.

The report from The Star:

HFMD reaches outbreak level

By Calvin Yeo

KUCHING: The hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) has reached outbreak level in the state, although the number of cases went down to 460 cases last week as compared to 757 cases the week before.

Health Ministry director-general Datuk Seri Dr Hasan Abdul Rahman, however, said the ministry was ready to handle the situation.

The situation is categorised as outbreak once the number of cases reaches beyond 327 cases.

HAND, FOOT AND MOUTH DISEASE STATISTICS FOR 17/03/2012 until midnight — source Sarawak Health Department

“The situation can be controlled if all the preventive measures are taken and we are experienced in handling it since the disease first struck in 1997.

“We also have sufficient medicine at hospitals to deal with the situation.

“We want to stop the transmission now as once the cases drop, we can avoid any fatality due to the disease.

“However, so far there has been no cases of death,” he told a press conference here yesterday.

Most of the 460 cases reported were mild cases with 41 children admitted to hospitals for observation and rehydration care. Only one serious case was registered, and this was in Bintulu Hospital.

The laboratory results had shown that out of the 739 cases, 105 cases were tested HFMD virus positive with 49 cases being Enterovirus 71 positive while the remaining being Coxsackie virus A16 positive.

Forty insitutions were allowed to reopen last week after they were ordered to be closed. Eighteen institutions still remain closed.

A total of 1,225 cases were reported last week throughout the country compared to 1,338 cases the week before. The cumulative cases from Jan 1 until March 17 were 6,678 cases, with 3,144 cases reported in the state. However, there was no death cases.

Hasan said from the reported cases in the state, the disease was prevalent among children below five years old.

“It is a contagious disease and what needs to be done to contain it is to practise strict personal hygiene as most of the cases started at home.

“When school reopens, parents are advised not to send their kids to nurseries or kindergartens if they have HFMD symptoms.

“Instead they should immediately bring their kids to hospital for medical observation.

“Chilcare centre and nursery operators must also be on the lookout for the symptoms before allowing children to enter classrooms,” he said, adding that private sector was also welcomed to donate hand sanitisers to prevent the disease.

The HFMD outbreak first struck the state in 1997, It lasted for about three months and recorded a total of 29 deaths.

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