Public pay through their noses for health

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

Public pay through their noses for health

MIRI: The public is paying through their noses to safeguard their health in light of Influenza A (H1N1) sweeping the country.

From the first case of H1N1 in May this year, the highly contagious disease has killed 67 people and infected thousands more in Malaysia.

Just a basic three-ply mask would cost me about RM20 per month, and for my family of six, even RM100 per month may not be enough, said a teacher of SMK Riam, Sun Sui Ping, when met last Friday.

Staying indoors all the time is not the solution to avoid the disease, as people have to go to school, shop for necessities, and participate in outdoor activities.

That is when the surgical masks are important in minimising the spread of H1N1.

As the schools cooperative teacher-in-charge of sales, Sun said they had been selling the thee-ply masks at RM1 each, and had decided to reduce the price to 80 sen a piece for the benefits of their students and staff.

Sun said that the school also supplied the basic one-ply masks of 10 sen each free to poor students.

Despite that, she said maybe two out of 40 students per class wore masks, and even then only if they were having coughs or flu.

She thought it was as if the public was getting complacent about the H1N1 scare thinking that only other people would get the disease, and not themselves.

On the first day of distributing the facemasks in the school, everyone diligently put them on, but by the next day, most people had stopped wearing them. They complained about discomfort and breathing problems, she said.

However, she noticed that most teachers usually wore masks in school, especially when they were in class with their students.

Some teachers were even seen wearing them all the time.

The more expensive N95 masks, said able to filter 95 per cent of airborne particles, were hardly used. They are priced at RM6 each.

The normal three-ply mask comes with ear loops which is convenient to put on, but we also have another version with strings to be tied behind the head selling at the same price.

They are more suitable for women wearing headscarves that cover the ears, she said.

To reduce costs, she said one could buy a box of 100-piece of the one-ply mask at RM7, or a box of 100 pieces of the slightly better two-ply mask at RM10.

Then there are parents who are creative in using the veil a piece of cloth to cover the face that can be reused after being washed, she said.

She went on to say that the wearers must be taught how to use the masks properly.

Many children used them inside out.

Worse still, many people use them repeatedly instead of disposing of them after each use.

Perhaps, some people thought that recycling (repeated use) can help save costs, and that it is better than having no protection at all, she added.

She agreed that for safety sake, the people should not let their guard down just because wearing the mask was inconvenient and costly.