The state government is ready to face the outbreak of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) in Sarawak, said Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Dr George Chan.
“We are preparing as far as the HFMD is concerned and we are now telling everybody to prepare for the worst. It would be best if it can be controlled,” Dr Chan added after attending the briefing on SME Recognition Award 2008 at Sarawak Industry & Promotion Exhibition Centre here yesterday.
He said: “I am also telling everyone involved to be on the alert for next year because this disease usually starts to pick up at the end of the year and continues into the beginning of next year.”
He said two cases of HFMD involving EV71 virus had been reported in Sibu and Miri.
Although the condition is under control, Dr Chan reminded the people and doctors to be on the lookout for an outbreak.
“We are keeping our eyes on the younger people, especially children in kindergartens and primary schools,” he added.
Dr Chan said it was easier to monitor the disease now as doctors had to report cases of HFMD treated at their clinics.
“I have asked the Health Ministry to make it compulsory for all doctors to report any case of the disease,” he said.
During a press conference on May 2, Dr Chan issued a warning to get the people ready to face any outbreak of the disease in the state.
He said routine surveillance conducted by the Sarawak Health Department showed that there were 1,729 cases of HFMD reported in the state till April 26 this year.
“We had three small, localised outbreaks where the first outbreak occurred at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) which involved 48 adults (from March 10 to 25), second outbreak in Kampung Pichin, Serian that involved 24 children (April 4 to 22) and the third outbreak occurred at Al Hidayah Abin Nursery, Sarikei involving 10 children (April 9 to 24),” said Dr Chan.
He said all outbreaks, now under control, were mild and needed no hospitalisation.
“As far as Sarawak is concerned, none of the HFMD outbreak was caused by Enterovirus 71 (EV71) and all cases this year were caused by the Coxsackie A16 virus,” he said, adding that no one was admitted to the hospital or died from the disease.
Meanwhile, Sarawak Health Department director Dr Zulkifli Jantan said as far as Sarawak General Hospital was concerned, no cases of HFMD of students had been reported in the hospital.
“Only serious cases of HFMD will be admitted in hospital and so far no student has been reported ill to the department,” he said when asked to comment on the closure of a kindergarten in Kuching starting yesterday.
He said most probably officers from the Health Office had visited the kindergarten concerned and had advised the authority concerned to take precautionary measures against the disease.
HFMD is generally a mild and self-limiting disease endemic in Sarawak.
The signs and symptoms are fever, sore throat, loss of appetite, ulcer at the throat and mouth as well as blister rashes on the hands, feet and diaper area (papulovesicular lesions). It affects mostly children below 10 years old and the duration of infection normally lasts seven to 10 days.
The disease is spread by direct contact with droplets from an infected person through coughing and sneezing, or oral secretion and nasal discharge or through contaminated hands to mouth. It is also spread by touching blister of the body of an infected person.
A person will show signs and symptoms three to seven days after exposure to the virus. Most patients will recover within a few days.
The disease is very infectious at the acute stage, especially from the cough and sneeze droplets, oral and nasal discharge and fluid from the blisters.
The viruses may continue to be excreted in the stool of the infected persons for a few weeks.