Influenza A (H1N1): Situation ‘has reached critical level’

(NST) PUTRAJAYA: The influenza A (H1N1) situation has reached critical level in the country and health authorities will soon focus on mitigation rather than containment.

Mitigation phase is when there is sustained community spread and new cases have no defined epidemiological links with existing cases.

Yesterday, a second generation of local transmission was reported.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai advised Malaysians to observe personal hygiene to avoid a major outbreak.

"Those who are sick should use a face mask to prevent infecting others. Go to the nearest hospital if you are sick."

He warned that although the virus was not deadly, it could become virulent if it mutated.

Liow, who chaired a meeting with mass media editors, hospitals, district and state health department heads, epidemiologists and infectious disease consultants at the ministry yesterday, said no one could predict how virulent or deadly the virus could become.

Health Ministry disease control director Datuk Dr Hasan Abdul Rahman warned that 2.6 million Malaysians could be infected if they did not heed the warning.

Under the mitigation phase, Liow said, the health authorities' focus was to reduce mortality caused by the disease, slow the spread and minimise disruption to essential services.

"We will only admit those who are seriously ill, in the high-risk group for complications and children in our 28 designated hospitals. Others will be given anti-viral treatment and sent home."

Liow said the ministry was working hard to ensure that the disease did not disrupt the economy and businesses.

As of 8am yesterday, 75 new cases were reported — 41 imported and 34 local transmissions — bringing the total to 434 cases.

Among the confirmed cases are 15 of the 165 delegates to the Asia-Pacific pharmaceutical conference held in Penang from June 27 to 30.