Identifying ‘hot spots’ for H1N1 can be counter-productive

(The Star) KUANTAN: Identifying influenza A (H1N1) “hot spots” is not a viable way to control the spread of the sickness, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said.

Muhyiddin said he had spoken to Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai and informed him that such a move would be counter-productive.

“No country has made known to its citizens specific areas which are deemed as A (H1N1) ‘hot spots’. It is unlike haze where we can detect red spots on the map due to raging fires.

“In the case of A (H1N1), it is not a viable option as the public may let down their guard in non-affected areas.

“The sickness has transcended borders and not just contained in certain areas,” he said after opening the Kuantan, Indera Mahkota and Paya Besar Umno divisions delegates’ meeting yesterday.

Muhyiddin was asked to comment on the suggestion by several non-governmental organisations urging the Government to disclose specific areas where many A (H1N1) cases had been reported.

He opined that self-preventive measures were still the best way to curb the spread of the sickness instead of imposing restrictions on the public.

Citing an example, he said if A (H1N1) cases were reported in Kuantan, it was not right to restrict people from travelling there.

“The Government will continue to announce the number of cases and fatalities and hope this information can be used as a guideline to prevent one from contracting the sickness.

“This approach is in accordance with the standards set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and will continue to be adopted,” he said.

Muhyiddin, who is also the Education Minister, said the Government had yet to issue any blanket directive to compel all schools, including those which had just reopened, to have their pupils don face masks.

He said all principals and headmasters had been informed of the guidelines and only students who had cough and flu were strongly encouraged to do so.

“According to health experts, only those coughing and having flu symptoms are advised to wear a face mask so as not to infect others.

“All schools will be supplied with face masks and hand sanitisers which cost the Government RM3mil,” he said, adding that a directive had been issued to supply all schools with the items but there could be a delay due to a lack of supply.

Muhyiddin said the Government had also increased the stock of the anti-viral drug Tamiflu to all hospitals and health clinics from 10% to 20%, costing between RM20mil and RM40mil.

He said all government hospitals had also been directed to review existing procedures to give priority to patients with more severe symptoms.

“I want the waiting time for the more sickly patients to be reduced so that their condition will not deteriorate,” he said.