Tuesday May 30, 2006
HFM alert issued for Gawai Fest
By STEPHEN THEN
MIRI: A statewide alert has been issued in Sarawak of another possible outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) from the exodus of people from cities and towns to the rural regions for the Gawai Dayak festival.
The state health and medical services department had issued an alert to all hospitals and clinics and also informed the state disaster relief committee.
Deputy Chief Minister and committee chairman Tan Sri Dr George Chan Hong Nam said past experience showed that the mass movement of people during the Gawai period could result in a sudden peak in HFMD cases.
He said this trend was seen in 2001 during the HFMD outbreak that year. An initial deadly attack was followed by a decline in cases, but during the Gawai period, the outbreak peaked a second time.
We are worried it may happen again. The rush by urban folks to get back home to the rural longhouses and settlements for Gawai on June 1 may result in swift transmission of the virus in rural regions, he said in an interview here yesterday.
The recent HFMD epidemic claimed 10 lives the last death was that of a six-year-old girl in Miri on May 6.
Since then, there has been a decline in new cases daily and there is no critical case now, Dr Chan said.
Every divisional health officer has been instructed to be on the alert and be prepared for any eventualities.
They have been told to spread the message to as many rural settlements and longhouses as possible so that the villagers themselves would be on the alert also, he added.
Dr Chan said the daily number of new cases has been low over the past few weeks, adding that 24 new cases were detected state-wide yesterday.