A(H1N1) death toll rises to 38

(Straits Times) KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 12 — The death toll from influenza A(H1N1) has climbed to 38, with six new deaths reported yesterday.

The number of infections has also spiralled to 2,253 after 270 new cases were confirmed since Monday, Health Ministry director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said yesterday.

Many of the victims who died had underlying risk factors, he said.

“In the last 24 hours, 203 new cases were reported, of which 15 were being treated in intensive care units and 67 patients are in isolation wards,” he said.

The new deaths come just as Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced a large-scale awareness campaign on H1N1 to educate the public on the pandemic, in view of the worsening situation in the country. The number of cases has climbed so high that government hospitals are straining to cope with the influx. To alleviate this problem, Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai said that private clinics will now be allowed to diagnose the virus.

With the increasing number of cases, there is also heightening panic on the ground. Besides travellers at airports, more and more shoppers, sales assistants and office workers can be seen sporting masks. The surging demand for masks has inflated prices in some areas.

Some 61 Chinese schools nationwide will reportedly be equipped with hand sanitisers and face masks, sponsored by a pharmaceutical company.

Parents have become more concerned, with some calling for schools to be closed for term holidays earlier than scheduled.

One mother, Sofea Abdullah, said she is very worried about the situation and wishes that schools would close immediately.

Her son's school was closed for seven days last week due to several H1N1 cases, according to a ministry circular pasted on the school gate.

“I don't take them to shopping malls anymore, and when we go out for dinner, I will pick a restaurant that is not crowded,” she told The Straits Times.