Friday, August 14, 2009

Shut down the schools before we are sorry!

I have been getting an earful from my sister Saro, a mother of two, every day over the past three days or so. So much so, I dread answering her phone calls. She is worried sick, bordering paranoia, over the infuenza h1n1 (I shall not glorify this disease by even putting its name in the upper case).

Her daughter, my niece, is in form 5 and goes to school in Bandar Sri Damansara. Apparently, the teachers in the school wear face masks but the pupils are not given any.

She refuses to allow my niece to go to school and makes her stay home. I am a parent myself, and I have been doing the same. I refuse to allow my eight-year-old daughter attend school. My son who completed his PMR trial exam yesterday is going to stay home too.

Like my sister, I am concerned about my kids. So I do take exception to the Minister of Health Datuk Liow Ting Lai's remarks that there is no point declaring a school holiday because school children will only go to places where they can catch the virus. I think his statement is an insult to every civic, right-thinking Malaysian.

As of today, Malaysia which only has a population of 27 million, recorded 56 h1n1-related deaths. Liow can say what he wants, but I think this is quite alarming. The population:h1n1-patient ratio in Malaysia is indeed high compared with other countries.

To date, India, which has a population of 1.14 billion only has 22 deaths. The authorities in Mumbai, where the highest number of cases were reported, have shutdown schools, colleges and cinemas. The did so at the risk of severely impacting the Bollywood movie industry. As we know, India churns out the most number of movies in the world and the movie industry is a major contributor to the country's GDP.

Mexico, where it all started, only recorded 163 deaths so far.

I think the Government of Malaysia must resort to drastic measures. The problem is compounded by the high number of dengue cases. Government hospitals are full to the corridors. We don't have enough doctors and nurses to handle the situation.

Worse, the Health Minister keeps saying that all those who died are within the "high-risk" group. Ironically, the number of diseases which fall under the high-risk category as given by the Health Ministry is growing by the day.

Obesity is the latest to join the list. Earlier, high-risk was just confined to diseases of the higher respiratory tract, including asthma, lung and perhaps heart diseases.

It seems to me that we are simply looking for excuses and now we are running out of them. Yesterday, a 19-year-old teenager died. I wonder what was his risk factor.

So Mr Minister, if I have piles (not that I do), will I be high-risk too?


nelfernz said...

Hear hear!
I've stopped sending my 3 kids to school too for a few days now. The wife wasnt too happy initially, but now understands my decision after seeing for herself how the government seems to have lost its grip on the situation. Spoke to a senior state medical official couple of days back and let me tell you what he said wasn't that assuring!

Anonymous said...

Sdra JP

The swine flu pandemic in our country smacks of bureaucratic incompetence and the need to be politically correct. I think it is about time the people in charge get all the experts in infection control from all the university hospitals (UMMC, HUKM, etc) and private hospitals involved in planning whatever protocols necessary to control the spread of the deadly disease. I was told that at the onset of the pandemic, everything must be handled by the Health Ministry. For instance. all suspected swine flu cases which came to UMMC had to be sent to the Sungai Buloh Hospital. Later when the disease spread, UMMC was allowed to manage the cases but the treatment protocols as directed by the Health Ministry kept changing.
Even the wearing of masks is confusing. Some doctors say only those infected should wear them while others say everyone should wear them in public places. There are also doctors who insist that the masks will not stop the healthy from being infected. Can we have something definite on this?
The media is not helping either. I suspect there were ‘instructions from the top’ to not make a ‘big thing’ about the pandemic. As a result, the people are not really aware of the dangers. Parents still bring their babies and young children to crowded public places, including to visit sick relatives at hospitals. The info clips on TV are definitely insufficient to warn of the dangers of the disease. One particular fancy clip (where a sneeze on to a glass screen produced the words HIN1) did not quite deliver the message. This is no time for fancy info clips. Get the message across as plain (and hard) as possible. If the dangers of smoking can be splashed in newspaper advertisements, should not the same be done for swine flu? There is a need for a concerted media campaign to inform the public about what needs to be done.
With the coming rainy season when some people are prone to upper respiratory tract infections, I believe the number of swine flu cases and deaths is going to increase dramatically.
Perhaps it is time to press the alarm button, not the panic button just yet.

Hantu Cetak