PETALING JAYA: The outbreak of Influenza A has gained momentum, prompting calls for immediate action to stem the spread of the disease, especially among children.
As of yesterday, a total of 176 cases, most of them schoolchildren, have been recorded. One child has already succumbed to the disease.
The National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) has called for the allocation of funds to underwrite an exercise to vaccinate all schoolchildren with immediate effect.
At the same time, the Association of Registered Childcare Providers Malaysia (ARCPM) wants the government to issue an order to parents to refrain from sending their children to childcare centres or kindergartens if they are ill.
Penang has already recorded 10 clusters of Influenza-like illness involving 62 individuals while Johor reported a total of 89 cases, all of whom are schoolchildren, as of 1.30pm yesterday.
According to Johor Education Department director Azman Adnan, Johor Baru had the highest number of victims with 56 cases, followed by Kulai with 15, Tangkak (six), Kluang (five), Muar (five) and one each in Batu Pahat and Pontian.
Last Thursday, 20 students, two of whom were siblings, and a teacher at the Cyberjaya Primary School tested positive for Influenza A, according to the Selangor Health Department.
In a separate case, a one-year-old girl died last month after testing positive for H1N1, a subtype of Influenza A.
NUTP secretary-general Harry Tan proposed that the Education Ministry seek help from the Health Ministry to immunise schoolchildren.
“This will be the best thing to do considering how much more we would have to spend to address a nationwide outbreak,” he told theSun.
He said this would not only save money but also prevent hospitals from being inundated with Influenza A cases.
Tan said schools should also be advised to put in place a standard operation procedure (SOP) to enable teachers to scan children to single out those with fever.
“There should also be an SOP to enable teachers to inform parents and what to do if parents cannot be reached, and how children with influenza symptoms should be isolated,” he added.
He said any help from medical experts and others would be most appreciated.
“Perhaps people could donate the scanners that are used at airports to single out suspected cases,” he said.
Tan also wants the government to add influenza to the list of infectious diseases that require quarantine leave. The diseases currently on the list are hand, foot and mouth disease, dengue fever, dengue haemorrhagic fever, measles, chicken pox, diphtheria and malaria.
ARCPM president Anisa Ahmad said parents should not send their children to childcare centres or kindergartens if they were ill.
“There are parents who will just leave their children at the centres or kindies while they attend to other matters,” she said yesterday.
“However, we do not have the authority to compel them from sending their children to us.”
She said the government’s support to make it mandatory for parents to keep their children at home if they were ill was essential to prevent others from being infected.
“We could have an awareness workshop or seminar for parents. There are parents who do not even bother to clean their children before sending them to childcare centres,” she said. Anisa also advised parents to be alert to their children’s well-being and be responsible for their care.
In a statement yesterday, the Education Ministry said all schools must comply with its SOP on Influenza A epidemic infection control. It also urged school heads to seek advice from the ministry if they felt there was a need to suspend classes.
“Schools also need to be vigilant and if there are signs of infection, the affected students must be isolated and their parents informed so that they can be taken home or sent for treatment,” it added.
Source: The Sun Daily
Photo: Malay Mail