Big Sam, huge ego

ENGLAND manager Sam Allardyce takes charge of his first game on a stage he has been craving for all his life. Although he has not won a major trophy in the English top flight, the former Bolton and Sunderland boss believes he is better than previous England boss Roy Hodgson. — Picture by Getty


Lawlessness in city with ‘zero crime’

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte visits the site of a bomb blast at a night market in Davao City that killed 14 and injured 71 on Friday.

Authorities blamed Islamic militants for the attack as Duterte declared a ‘state of lawlessness’ in the country.

Picture by AFP

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First man to contract virus locally dies of heart complications

PETALING JAYA — A 61-year-old man from Taman Public Jaya Likas, Sabah — the first Malaysian to contract the Zika virus locally — has died of heart complications.

Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the ministry received a report on the locally transmitted Zika case on Friday.

He said blood and urine tests showed the patient tested positive for Zika. The man, however, died at 5.30pm yesterday from heart-related complications.

Dr Noor Hisham said the man also had high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease, kidney stones and gout. The full result of the cause of death is still pending.

The man had been scheduled to undergo heart surgery next month.

In an earlier statement, Dr Noor Hisham said the patient had fever on Aug 27 and received treatment at Luyang Health Clinic on Tuesday.

His fever worsened on Wednesday and he suffered from muscular aches and diarrhoea. The patient received further treatment and was warded at Queen Elizabeth II Hospital.

As the patient had hypertension, cardiovascular problems, chronic kidney disease, kidney stones and gout, his condition was quite serious when he was treated at the Emergency and Trauma Department of the hospital, he said.

Dr Noor Hisham said the ministry was also investigating the patient’s recent travel history.

“There is a high possibility the Zika infection was transmitted locally considering the patient had not travelled out of the country recently,” he said.

“Based on the latest findings of the inquiry, the ministry has initiated vector control activities in the residential area of ​​the patient and other places visited by the patient.”

He said the ministry had initiated vector control measures for the housing area where the man lived as well as places he had visited.

Checks were also being conducted on the patient’s acquaintances and others who may have come into contact with him to verify if they could have contracted the virus.

The latest case came two days after Malaysia confirmed its first imported case of Zika in a 58-year-old woman residing in Bandar Botanic, Klang, who had visited her daughter in Singapore on Aug 19.

Dr Noor Hisham said the number of Zika cases was expected to increase if there were no preventive and precautionary efforts taken by the community.

“The ministry once again emphasises that the most effective way to prevent Zika cases is to ensure your environment is clean and free from Aedes breeding grounds,” he said.

It was previously reported that Zika was detected in Aedes aegypt mosquitoes in Peninsular Malaysia in 1969. In 2001, Zika serepositivity was demonstrated in a native Borneo resident, two migrants to Borneo and two Borneo orangutan. A later study found an additional eight orangutan to be seropositive for antibodies against Zika.

A letter published by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention stated a 45-year-old woman who returned from Sabah in 2014 after a three-week vacation started experiencing fever and maculopapular rash on her arms and legs. She was found infected with acute Zika virus.

In George Town, Penang, Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya said efforts were ongoing to prevent the virus from spreading.

“We have devices to scan passengers to identify those with high body temperature at our international entry points. Those with high body temperature will be asked to undergo tests to confirm if they have contracted Zika,” he said..

He warned Penang folk not to take the warning lightly as the state had one of the highest number of dengue cases in the country.

“We must do the necessary to ensure we are not infected by the virus which can be transmitted through the Aedes mosquito,” he said after officiating the national level “World Breastfeeding Week” at Universiti Sains Malaysia.

Penang Health Department director Datuk Dr M. Sukumar, who was present, said the department would double its efforts including intensified fogging at hotspots for dengue cases.

“We are also educating the public on the danger of the virus through health talks in schools and public places,” he said.

Malacca clears family of three after tests

MALACCA — Blood and urine tests conducted on three members of a family here suspected of being infected by the Zika virus turned out negative.

State health, sports development and anti-drugs committee chairman Datuk Ab Rahaman Ab Karim said the confirmation was issued by the state Health Department based on tests done by the Durian Tunggal health clinic here.

“The mother and two daughters have been confirmed to be free of Zika infection and this puts to rest earlier reports about them being victims of Zika,” he told a press conference yesterday.

“So I wish to confirm there are no Zika cases in Malacca.”

The press conference was called in response to reports about the family suspected of being infected with the Zika virus and had been quarantined at their home in Durian Tunggal after returning from Singapore on Tuesday.

Earlier, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said in Segamat his ministry would conduct an investigation and all necessary tests would be conducted on the three. — Bernama

Patient Zero’s movements tightly guarded

PETALING JAYA — The movements of the nation’s first Zika patient appear to be a closely guarded secret.

The authorities were not forthcoming with their answers when asked where the 58-year-old woman from Bandar Botanic, Klang, had travelled upon returning from Singapore where she was infected with the virus.

An official from the Selangor Health Department, who declined to be named, confirmed the patient visited a clinic in Taman Sri Pesona, Klang.

“Patient Zero sought treatment there. She also visited a home near the clinic located at Jalan Mempelam,” the official said.

The source said decontamination and preventative procedures were carried out in those areas.

The official added a similar operation was done at the patient’s home in Bandar Botanic and a nearby hypermarket.

“The hypermarket was inspected and the area surrounding it was fogged, including a small section of plants and undergrowth located near this hypermart.”

A Kuala Lumpur Health Department official confirmed the patient had visited a mega mall and that the building was inspected.

“But we found there were no larvae or mosquito breeding spots in the mall,” the official said.

The official said the Health Ministry had issued directives that the department not disclose the locations the patient had visited.

“They said there was no need to create public panic and that they had assessed the situation and found there was no need to inform the public where the patient went,” the official said.

“But people would want to know … if they should get themselves checked. If they have Zika or dengue-like symptoms, then they need to get tested.”

Battle lines blurred by poor
 judgment and red tape

THE manner in which the authorities are drawing battles lines to fight the Zika menace is dangerously riddled with lapses that may render it a public relations disaster if errors are not arrested fast.

A quagmire of uncertainty appears prevalent among certain echelons of the powers-that-be entrusted with the health of the nation.

Instead of revealing the extent of the problem and measures being taken to combat it, some little napoleans appear to be trying to hush things up.

They are sending some media on a wild goose chase across departments in search of information the public urgently needs to prepare to fight the virus.

If they are hoping the problem will disappear over time, they are in for a shock: latest statistics reveal 2.6 billion people globally or a third of the world population are at risk of contracting Zika.

This apathy among some bureaucrats comes at a time when the people, especially those in areas like Klang where Malaysia’s first case was reported, are at their wit’s end over a disease that little is known about.

The virus is said to have been transmitted to the victim in Singapore where a relative was the island’s first known case.

Six Malaysians are said to be among 215 cases of Zika recorded so far in the republic.

It is now that health authorities and local councils should be sharing information with the media through daily television and radio messages about the extent of the problem, efforts taken to fight it and what the man-on-the-street should be doing to keep the virus at bay.

Public education is critical in stopping the virus from establishing a stronghold nationwide.

Unlike Singapore where MPs are visiting households in their constituencies to spread the word about Zika, a malaise appears to be debilitating our elected representatives and preventing them from going to the ground to allay fears among constituents.

Community gatherings should be organised to disseminate information on the do’s and dont’s with regard to the virus spread by mosquitoes and through sex.

We should have learnt a lesson or two from what transpired during the Nipah virus epidemic in 1998 when the absence of up-to-date information forced some media to go to Bukit Pelanduk in Negri Sembilan to obtain first-hand data not forthcoming from a highly-secretive bureaucracy.

A comprehensive public communications strategy is needed to effectively educate the masses about Zika and the host of health problems from around the world that may attack us in time due to ease of international travel.

Malaysia needs to pull up its socks now to stop Zika in its tracks.

Regular statements to keep public informed

GEORGE TOWN — The Health Ministry has acknowledged it should release statements on the Zika situation periodically following confusing reports regarding the virus.

Health authorities in Malacca were quoted as saying a family of three in Durian Tunggal had been “quarantined”, pending the results of their urine tests, after they were suspected of having Zika following their recent visit to Singapore.

There has not been a daily briefing since Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam revealed on Thursday the nation’s first Zika patient, who resides in Bandar Botanic, Klang.

“We have released periodical statements for dengue and I think we should do the same with Zika to avoid misinformation and confusion to the people,” deputy director-general of public health Datuk Dr Lokman Hakim Sulaiman said yesterday.

“We want the people to know the actual situation.”

Asked if the ministry would have daily media briefings, he said: “Right now, we will just release statements. We will decide later if we will need to meet the press daily.”

Dr Lokman said the three women in Malacca were not quarantined but under observation.

“Perhaps some people have been misinformed by certain quarters. This is what happens when certain sources reveal unverified information,” he said.

He said this after attending the national level “World Breastfeeding Week” at Universiti Sains Malaysia.

Klang MP Charles Santiago said the authorities must do more to reassure the public it was containing and eradicating the virus.

“The authorities must mobilise its public health care machinery and they must be seen doing so,” he said.

“If they want to hold back details for valid reasons, fine … but don’t use it as an excuse to be complacent. There should not be any secrets when it comes to public health.”

Santiago asked what steps health officials and the Immigration Department had introduced to screen those coming in and out of Singapore.

“The Republic has recorded 215 cases, several of them Malaysians. The nation’s first Zika patient is from Bandar Botanic, Klang, and she got infected after visiting Singapore recently. It can’t get any clearer than that,” he said.

As Zika shared the same vector as dengue, Santiago said, the local councils should inspect homes and construction sites.

“Construction sites have always been major breeding grounds for Aedes mosquitoes. The local authorities must ensure these sites conform with operating procedures and are free from mosquitoes,” he said.

“The local councils must also repair holes and cracks in badminton courts and other public amenities so they don’t contain water easily. They must also use the right chemicals when fogging.”

Santiago warned that lack of action could potentially see “a minor problem turn into a major headache and even an outbreak”.

“This is the wet season and it’s going to rain almost daily. This is an ideal condition for mosquitoes to breed,” he said.

“A spike in Zika cases is going to strain our already overburdened health care system.”


Many still lack knowledge of infection

A STREET poll conducted yesterday revealed the public’s understanding on Zika. Most of the respondents, interviewed by Malay Mail’s Danial Dzulkifly, were unable to state the symptoms of the virus. There were also those who said Zika was an “upgrade’’ of dengue and many were unaware it could spread through sex.

I heard Malaysia’s first Zika case was recorded in Klang. From what I’ve heard it can be transmitted through Aedes mosquitoes and unhygienic areas are more likely to have more cases.”

I’m not sure what is Zika. Is it another form of the dengue virus?”

Zika is like dengue but I know you won’t die if you get it. I know that if babies have it their head would be enlarged.”

I don’t know what is Zika. Is it related to dengue?”

To my knowledge, the virus affects internal organs and it can only be fatal in extreme cases. But I think they can treat the infection if it was detected early.”

Zika is similar to dengue. You would get rashes and it is not fatal. However, newborn babies can suffer from deformities.”

You would face sore limbs and rashes and even faint in severe cases. But it is not that worrying as the disease is just like dengue.”

I know the disease is transmitted from mosquitoes to human and human to human. But I am not sure what are the exact symptoms related to it.”

I am not sure if one will bleed or die if they get Zika but I know it can be transmitted through Aedes mosquitoes and unprotected sex.”

‘No need to alert public on patient’s movements’

PETALING JAYA — The Health Ministry says there is no need for the public to know the areas where Malaysia’s first Zika patient had visited upon her return from Singapore, deeming it unnecessary to sound an alert.

The ministry’s disease control division director, Dr Chong Chee Keong, said the public should not worry of being exposed to the virus as assessments and prevention exercises had been conducted.

“It is not that we are keeping the public in the dark, but it is unnecessary to cause alarm,” he told Sunday Mail.

“After the illness had subsided and the virus was still active in the patient’s blood, she had only visited a few places.

“The ministry has weighed all the risks. According to the date and location of her visits, we concluded that there was no need to reveal the said locations to prevent panic.”

Dr Chong said when tracking the patient’s footsteps before she was admitted to Sungai Buloh Hospital on Tuesday, the ministry had reduced some of the locations to risk-free areas based on the time of her visit.

“As we had gathered from dealing with dengue-carrying Aedes mosquitoes before, the feeding is most intense around dawn and dusk,” he said.

“All visits the patient made during non-peak hours are discounted.”

He said the necessary measures, including source reduction and fogging, had been conducted at all the areas the patient had visited, including at her house in Bandar Botanic, Klang.

“Her house was the first place we visited following confirmation of the virus. We have scoured every nook and cranny of the compound and interior of her house and found no evidence of breeding grounds,” he said.

“The standard anti-Aedes activities like fogging were then conducted within a 400m radius of her house.”

The 58-year old patient is reportedly recovering and is expected to be discharged soon.


Mother-to-be tested positive for dengue, too

SINGAPORE A pregnant woman, among the 215 diagnosed with Zika in Singapore, has tested positive for dengue too — unheard of here until now.

Mary (not her real name), 24, who lives in Sennett Avenue, feared the worst when she went to a general practitioner in Bedok South on Tuesday night with fever and joint ache.

The entrepreneur, who is six months’ pregnant with her second child, was referred to Changi General Hospital, where she tested positive for dengue and was warded.

Although doctors said it was unlikely that she had Zika, they gave her a blood and urine test nonetheless. The urine test results came back at 2pm on Thursday, and she tested positive.

“The doctor at CGH broke the news to (my husband and me) together very slowly, and he was quite sensitive about it,” said Mary.

“I broke down for a while, but my husband helped.”

That evening, she was taken to KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital for further checks. As the viral count in her second urine sample had “gone down”, she was told she had probably caught the virus about a week ago and was no longer infectious. She was discharged that same night.

So far, the authorities have announced there have been two pregnant women diagnosed with Zika here, with both linked to the Aljunied Crescent-Sims Drive cluster.

Mary, however, neither works there nor has relatives living in those areas. She said she had not been to that area recently.

The Ministry of Health said it would not disclose any information relating to patients.

Zika infections during pregnancy have been linked to microcephaly, where a baby is born with an abnormally small brain and skull. Amniotic fluid testing can be done to screen for the Zika virus, which is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito — also responsible for transmitting dengue — but the ministry previously said a positive test did not mean a baby would be born with defects.

Mary said tests so far showed her baby was fine, but in four weeks, she would have to go for another check-up to see if there were signs of her baby “not
growing normally”.

She underwent a baseline scan at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital on Friday but said she would probably see her private gynaecologist for a follow-up.

Regardless, Mary said, she intended to follow through with her pregnancy.

“No matter what, we’re still going to go through with everything,” she said, noting that the overall risk levels of microcephaly in foetuses of infected expectant women was low — between one and 13 per cent.

“We will keep monitoring to keep a close watch and pray for the best.”

Recounting what she had gone through over the past few days, Mary said she was puzzled by her “unexpected” diagnosis
for Zika.

She had a fever last week but because she also had diarrhoea, she had attributed that to food poisoning.

For the past few weeks, she has taken precautions such as using mosquito repellent.

“I always (douse) my son in mosquito repellent … I did the same for me for the past few weeks,” she said.

Her father and two-year-old son had also come down with fever but have not gone for further tests.

Her son’s fever has subsided after taking paracetamol, but Mary said she would take him to the doctor if his temperature spiked again.

Asked about the support her family had given her so far, she said they knew “nobody can do anything right now”.

She has not considered moving to an unaffected area but would continue taking precautions such as using mosquito patches and repellent.

“There’s not much I can really do right now besides buying all this stuff off (the) shelves (and) staying indoors,” she added. — Today

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