Commuters turn to social media 
to vent frustration

KUALA LUMPUR — Commuters in the Klang Valley had a stressful morning yesterday when the RapidKL light rail transit (LRT) service was disrupted.

Facebook user Edmund Lau Kok Ming posted that it took three hours for him to get from Subang to the city centre.

“LRT delayed today. Thank you…It is more likely for me to get to class on time from Subang to Hong Kong than from Subang to KL.”

Another Facebook user, Just Beauty Affairs, who had to take an emergency leave from work, demanded a formal letter of apology and explanation from RapidKL Sdn Bhd for everyone affected in yesterday’s service disruption.

“Instead of posting an apology letter on FB, can we have a formal letter from (RapidKL’s) upper management with detailed explanation of the date and time?

“So that it can be used as justification for the delayed arrivals. This might affect our salary and even our annual appraisal.”

Cheong Yew Ken took to Facebook to rant about the service, comparing it to the LRT system used in Bangkok, Thailand.

He also suggested that RapidKL reduced the fares, which he deemed incompatible with the services rendered.

Vikneswary Subramaniam, who checked into KL Sentral LRT station at about 8am, said he was just “fed up”.

A Twitter user @irammokhtar said the service disruption had caused her husband to miss his flight and subsequently had to buy a new ticket at the very last minute.

“My husband missed his flight because of the delayed LRT. He took LRT to save time from driving all the way to the airport. Instead, he ended up having to buy a new return ticket.”

Others saw the silver lining the train halt brought to ride-hailing applications like Uber and Grabcar.

@ohmbow said: “Massive LRT delay @MyRapidKL. Had to park somewhere else. Walking in the rain to work and singing in the rain. Good day for taxis and Uber.”

Another Twitter user @firdaushasan said: “The LRT problem today is good for Uber drivers because of the high surge rate.”

Zika Capsules

Pg 4: How do you avoid Zika?

As Zika has neither a cure nor vaccine but must be allowed to run its course once an infection sets in, one should take every precaution to prevent getting bitten by mosquitoes.Fortunately netting, repellent and suitable clothing are widely available.

Pg 5:

What can you do if infected but unable to seek medical attention?

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention recommends plenty of rest and fluid to prevent dehydrataion, and medication such as acetaminophen or paracetamol to relieve fever and pain. Avoid aspirin and other non-steroidal drugs and antiinflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen.

ENDS

Study: Virus could live in eyes, spread through tears

WASHINGTON — The Zika virus can live in eyes, researchers say after conducting experiments on mice, which may explain why some patients develop ocular disease and in some cases, become blind.

The study, published in the journal Cell Reports, studied the effects of Zika infection in the eyes of fetal, newborn and adult mice.

“Our study suggests the eye could be a reservoir for the virus,” said Michael Diamond, a professor at the Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, who is one of the study’s senior authors.

“We need to consider whether people with Zika have infectious virus in their eyes and how long it actually persists,” he added, noting patients could spread the infection through their tears.

The researchers are planning to expand their study to include infected humans.

Zika causes only mild symptoms, such as fever and a rash for most people, but pregnant women can give birth to babies with microcephaly, a deformation marked by abnormally small brains and heads.

One third of babies infected with Zika in utero has eye disease, such as inflammation of the optic nerve, retinal damage or blindness, the researchers said.

In adults, Zika can cause conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, and in some rare cases, uveitis, a condition in which part of the eye wall becomes inflamed. It can lead to permanent vision loss.

For the study, researchers infected mice with Zika under the skin, similar to the way a human would be infected by
a mosquito.

They found live virus in the rodents’ eyes seven days later.

Infection in the eyes means it is possible people can become infected with Zika simply through touching contaminated tears.

It’s still not clear how the virus makes its way to the eyes. One possibility is that it crosses “the blood-retina barrier which separates the eye from the bloodstream, travelling along the optic nerve which connects the brain and the eye,” researchers said in a statement.

Researchers found genetic material from Zika in the tears of infected mice 28 days after infection — though not the virus itself.

“Even though we didn’t find live virus in mouse tears, that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be infectious in humans,” said lead author Jonathan Miner, who teaches medicine at Washington University.

“There could be a window of time when tears are highly infectious and people are coming in contact with it and able to spread it.” — AFP

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Singapore cases rise to 283, WHO says abstain from sex

SINGAPORE — The number of Zika cases here is expected to surge after eight new locally transmitted Zika cases were confirmed yesterday bringing the total to 283 cases.

The Ministry of Health and National Environment Agency said there was a new potential Zika cluster at Elite Terrace area in Siglap, with two cases found there.

Two cases are linked to the Aljunied Crescent/ Sims Drive/ Kallang Way/ Paya Lebar Way cluster, and one is linked to the Bishan Street 12 cluster. Four cases have no known links to any existing cluster.

China would offer Zika health screenings for travellers from Singapore and other affected countries, the quarantine bureau said, without explaining whether the tests would be compulsory.

China has previously announced it would step up checks on people and goods from Singapore. More than 20 Chinese nationals in Singapore have tested positive for Zika.

Individuals travelling from Singapore and other affected countries who show Zika symptoms should report to quarantine officials when entering China, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine said in a statement on its website.

Chinese international airports are generally equipped with thermal scanners capable of screening passengers for fever as they pass through Customs.

During past outbreaks, including of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and swine flu, passengers had been required to fill out health declaration forms.

Over the past few years, China has had plenty of experience dealing with disease outbreaks and learned a tough lesson in 2003 when authorities initially covered up the SARS outbreak.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said men and women returning from areas where the Zika virus was actively spreading should practise safe sex or abstinence for six months, regardless of whether they are trying to conceive or showing symptoms.

The guidance is a change from its interim recommendation on June 7, which referred only to men and had a shorter timeframe of at least eight weeks.

The organisation said the update was based on new evidence on Zika transmission from asymptomatic males to their female partners and a symptomatic female to her male partner, as well as evidence Zika is present in semen for longer than thought.

Sexual transmission of the virus had been reported in 11 countries by Aug 26, mainly through vaginal intercourse. There was a first documented case of a man catching the virus through anal sex in February and a suspicion of transmission through oral sex in April.

Although one man had Zika found in his semen 188 days after the onset of symptoms, the longest period the virus has so far been found to remain infectious was 24 days, and WHO said its latest six-month advice was conservative.

One patient had 100,000 times more Zika virus in his semen than in his blood 14 days after diagnosis.

Evidence on persistence of the virus in semen and its infectiousness, and impact on sexual transmission remains limited. The organisation said the guidance would be updated when there was more information.

The organisation advises pregnant women to not travel to areas with ongoing virus transmission, and warned people travelling to the Paralympic Games, which started yesterday in Rio de Janeiro, to take precautions against mosquito bites.

“We think the risk for travellers and athletes is low, but it’s not zero,” said WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic. — Agencies

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Pregnant woman in Johor third case

PETALING JAYA — A 27-year-old woman from Johor Baru has become the country’s first pregnant woman to be infected with Zika.

The woman from Taman Desa Harmoni is the third Malaysian to be infected with the virus.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said the woman was four months pregnant with her first child and was being treated at the Sultan Ismail Hospital.

“She began having symptoms of rash, fever and body ache last Friday before being treated at the hospital on Monday,” he said in a statement yesterday.

“She tested positive for the virus on Tuesday and is currently under the care of the hospital’s Obstetrics and Gynaecology Department.”

Dr Subramaniam said the case was the second locally transmitted case after the first involving a 61-year-old man in Taman Public Jaya Likas, Sabah on Saturday. He later died of heart complications.

The first Zika case in the country was reported last Thursday of a 58-year-old woman in Bandar Botanic Klang who contracted the virus after visiting her daughter in Singapore.

The ministry said the 27-year-old woman had last visited Singapore six months ago and it was checking if she had contracted the virus from her husband who commuted for work daily from Johor Baru to Geylang, Singapore.

“Her husband also had Zika symptoms and was admitted to the hospital last Friday for further investigation,” Dr Subramaniam said.

He said the woman’s mother was also screened but had not showed any symptom.

“Vector control measures were done immediately at the patient’s residence and also at places she had visited in the state,” Dr Subramaniam said.

“To date, 400 houses were examined and 450 premises had been fogged.”

Zika is primarily a mosquito-borne virus that causes no symptoms in four out of five of those affected.

But if pregnant women are infected, they face a higher risk of having a baby with head and brain defects, a condition known as microcephaly.

Dr Subramaniam also said the ministry would make it mandatory for all pregnant women showing symptoms and had been tested positive for Zika to be warded.

“Zika screening will also be carried out on pregnant women without symptoms if their spouse had tested positive,” Dr Subramaniam said.

He said the ministry had found 30 cases where patients showed symptoms of Zika, but all had tested negative.

“All women who tested positive for Zika should avoid becoming pregnant and practise safe sex for the first eight weeks after diagnosis,” he said.

“Men who tested positive are also urged to avoid sex for six months or practise safe sex.”

Abortion needs to be an informed decision

IT is important to realise the reason babies have a small head (microcephaly) with Zika infection is because the brain has become damaged and is not growing so well (a smaller brain with damage to brain cells). The degree of damage is only now being described and is variable.

From experience with other congenital viral infections, the more severely affected ones may die early. Some will live with severe disabilities while others with relatively mild developmental problems.

Abortion is not strictly illegal in Malaysia. An exception clause has been added to Sec 312 of the Penal Code which states “a medical practitioner registered under the Medical Act 1971 who terminates the pregnancy of a woman … if such medical practitioner is of the opinion, formed in good faith, that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk to the life of the pregnant woman, or injury to the mental or physical health of the pregnant woman, greater than if the pregnancy was terminated.”

Note that the clause includes the mental health of the mother as well. The Health Ministry has clear guidelines for termination of pregnancy.

The decision to abort must be made carefully and should follow the ministry’s guidelines. It first requires a confirmed diagnosis of Zika. Testing can be done in government hospitals and private laboratories.

Secondly, an obstetrician experienced in detailed foetal ultrasound should evaluate if the unborn child has brain damage. Finally, the parents should make an informed decision with their doctor in view of the available information. It is important to note terminations of pregnancy after the sixth month are difficult.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in the United Kingdom has stated: “When a significant brain abnormality or microcephaly is confirmed, the option of termination of pregnancy should be discussed with the woman, regardless of gestation.”

l Datuk Dr Amar is head of the
paediatric department at Raja
Permaisuri Bainun Hospital in Ipoh.

MM79EM10

Invest more to produce sports stars

PETALING JAYA — The government should invest more in sports especially at the grassroots level to produce sports stars. This was a suggestion by a reader on what she hopes to see included in Budget 2017.

You too can contribute your idea to Budget 2017 by visiting https://bajet2017.najibrazak.com/ and submitting your views in categories including cost of living, healthcare, housing and urban living, transportation and infrastucture.

The following are what three Malaysians are wishing for in Budget 2017.

Wendi Sia, writer, 24, Subang Jaya

“After our recent achievements at the Olympics, the government should look into providing sports equipment and sports clinics for underprivileged children. There are many poor talented children out there who are not given a chance to unleash their potential. Through this, Malaysia would be able to produce more world-
class athletes.”

Emiliene Sharon, marketing manager, 35, Kuala Lumpur

“I hope the government will do something to reduce the cost of medical fees at private hospitals which are incredibly expensive. It would also be good if the government increases manpower at government hospitals to reduce the waiting time for patients.”

Wong Mei Foong, retiree, 60, Petaling Jaya

“I hope the government helps out rural folk in the east coast. Roads do not exist especially in the deeper parts of Sabah and Sarawak. The people in these two states should enjoy basic infrastructure just like their fellow brothers and sisters in Peninsular Malaysia.”

Moratorium on bauxite mining until Dec 31

PUTRAJAYA — The government has extended the moratorium on bauxite mining in Pahang for the third time, until the end of the year, as a huge volume of the mineral has yet to be exported.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said despite 38 approved permits (APs) being issued to mining companies to clear the 5.4 million metric tonnes of bauxite stockpile, only 1.27 million metric tonnes of bauxite had been exported, leaving a whopping 4.13 million tonnes still awaiting clearance.

“The Cabinet has agreed that the moratorium on bauxite will be continued till Dec 31,” he said.

“To date, we still have 4.13 million metric tonnes which have yet to be exported, though we gave out 38 APs which can enable 3.76 million metric tonnes of bauxite to be exported.

“But most unfortunately, only 1.27 million metric tonnes was exported.” The moratorium was first announced for three months beginning Jan 15 and was then extended from April 15 to July 15. It was again extended for another three months till Sept 15, before the latest announcement yesterday.

Wan Junaidi said should the stockpile not be cleared by Dec 31, he was mulling a six-month moratorium extension, as opposed to the current two to three months’ period, Malay Mail Online reported.

“If there are people outside there, the industry people or whoever, any companies or even ports claiming they are affected by the absence of bauxite business activities, it is not the ministry’s fault nor the fault of the state government. This is solely the fault of the industry people who, after getting their APs, did not move their export business,” he said.

“This is just like when we give people AP to sell cars. If they don’t sell the cars, we cannot take action because they didn’t sell, we just stop their AP. If they do not sell then they won’t get money, so we cannot force.”

Asked about the cause for the slow export activities of the mineral, he said: “I sometimes ask myself that, too. You need to ask the industry people. I can’t answer that.”

Wan Junaidi said that to enable the bauxite pile to be cleared, his ministry would not openly issue any more APs and would limit the number of companies receiving the special permit, so as to ease enforcement and monitoring activities.

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Bank chairman, president claim trial to CBT charges

KUALA LUMPUR — Bank Rakyat chairman Tan Sri Gen (Rtd) Abdul Aziz Zainal and president Datuk Mustafha Abd Razak yesterday claimed trial at the Sessions Court in Jalan Duta for abetment and criminal breach of trust (CBT) respectively over a RM14.9 million deal for a non-existent book on a national leader.

Abdul Aziz was charged with assisting Mustafha, who is also managing director, to commit the alleged offence.

They are accused of committing the offences at Menara Kembar Bank Rakyat in Jalan Travers on March 11.

Deputy public prosecutor Muhamad Anas Mahadzir and Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission prosecution director Masri Mohd Daud requested the court to impose bail of RM2 million in one surety each for both men and also for their passports to be surrendered to the court.

Lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, who represented Abdul Aziz, said his client did not gain a sen from his alleged abetment, reported Malay Mail Online.

Shafee said the retired general could not afford the RM2 million bail amount sought by the prosecution and requested the judge to grant a bail of below RM400,000.

“Because he is a public servant, he doesn’t have that kind of money, he has always been a public servant and if there is any suggestion about the RM14-odd-million sum of CBT, I will tell you that not a single sen of that amount has been found to be in his possession,” he told the court.

Mustafha’s lawyer, Datuk Kamarul Hisham Kamaruddin, said his client was not charged with money laundering or misusing his position for gratification under Section 23 of the MACC Act, adding he had not banked in any amount from the alleged sum of over RM14 million.

“There are no grounds to suggest he has benefitted from the subject matter of this charge,” he said, having noted the assets of his client and his client’s wife had been frozen.

Both Shafee and Kamarul listed their clients’ credentials and pointed out their cooperation with investigators and voluntary appearance in court yesterday, when arguing the RM2 billion bail amount was oppressive.

Sessions Judge Madihah Harullah set bail at RM400,000 with one surety each, and ordered Abdul Aziz and Mustafha’s passports to be surrendered to the court.

The case has been fixed for case management and document submission on Oct 10.

If found guilty, the duo face a jail term of between two and 20 years, whipping and a possible fine.

Mustafha was arrested on Aug 25, and was remanded for three days, while Abdul Aziz was arrested four days later and remanded for a week.

Ex-accountant sheds light in Petronas false claims case

PETALING JAYA — The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) yesterday recorded the statement of a former accountant over the alleged misappropriation of RM7 million from oil giants Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Petronas).

The 40-year-old woman worked under one of the main contractors, who were among nine arrested last month in relation to the RM76 million Lekas III pipeline project in Malacca.

She met MACC officials at the headquarters in Putrajaya yesterday and was asked to return today for further questioning.

A source, in the thick of investigations, said MACC was in the midst of reviewing her statement before deciding on their next course of action.

“The accountant was detained to assist investigations after we found out she was involved in the project,” the source said.

“We will review her statement before deciding if she should be remanded or not.”

It is understood four more contractors and subcontractors were being tracked down to assist the anti-graft body in
its probe.

On Aug 26, a Petronas manager and project manager, four main contractors and two sub-contractors were remanded after they were suspected to have sphinoned millions from the oil company by falsifying invoices.

They submitted the invoices for “extra work” done on the project which forced Petronas to fork out money outside of their budget.

However, there was no additional work carried out.

The suspects, aged between 35 and 60, were detained in Malacca, Negri Sembilan, Terengganu and Kuala Lumpur.

MACC froze RM5.35 million in 17 bank accounts belonging to the two Petronas employees and 13 others connected to the project following the arrests.

A Rolls Royce, Ferrari, Toyota Camry, Toyota Hilux and two high-performance motorcycles were seized.

A terrace house worth RM1.5million in Bandar Utama was also sealed for investigations.

Two days later, a 27-year-old man was arrested in Putrajaya as he was recruited by one of the main contractors for the project.

MACC seized two more cars — a Mercedes Benz and Toyota Rush — along with several expensive bottles of liquor and tea worth RM300,000 in Malacca belonging to one of the contractors.

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