Health DG: No mutation or changes in influenza virus


THERE is an increasing trend of influenza virus activity in the environment, but there are no mutations or changes in the virus, the Institute for Medical Research (IMR) and the Sungai Buloh National Public Health Laboratory (MKAK) found during their lab survey.

Ministry of Health (MoH) DG Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah (picture) said the influenza activity is similar to the movements reported by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in other tropical countries in SouthEast Asia, South Asia, Central America and South America.

“Generally, influenza is an infection by the influenza virus which causes symptoms such as cold or flu, sore throat, cough, headache, muscle aches, joint pain and fatigue.

“Influenza infection is highly contagious, especially in public places such as schools, hostels, training institutions and camps. Most influenza patients experience mild symptoms and would heal without treatment,” he said in a statement yesterday.

There were reports on a child casualty, whereby the child was being treated in the intensive care unit at the Sultanah Aminah Hospital, Johor Baru.

Although it went viral that she died of influenza, clinical tests found that she was negative of the virus infection, and the cause of death is still under investigation.

Dr Noor Hisham advised those with flu-like symptoms to stay at home and avoid visiting public areas.

“If you need to meet people, wear a face mask. The surgical mask or three-ply mask is sufficient to prevent the spread of the virus.

“People are advised to seek immediate treatment at health facilities if symptoms persist or worsen,” he said.

The public is also advised to maintain good hygiene, wash their hands frequently using soap and water or hand sanitiser, as well as practise proper coughing and sneezing etiquette.

Dr Noor Hisham added that the ministry will be working with other agencies such as the Education Ministry to ensure infections are kept under control in childcare centres and schools.

“Town hall meeting sessions are being planned to spread awareness of influenza, so that preventive measures can be implemented effectively.

“Information sharing between agencies should also be enhanced,” he said.

He added that as of Tuesday, flu vaccines were only given to patients in high-risk groups, namely young children and elderly with weakened immune systems, at government health facilities.

“The vaccine is also given to the MoH’s frontliners who are exposed to the infection when handling patients,” he said.

There are six types of influenza vaccines registered with the Drug Control Authority. The quantity brought in for the local market last year was 638,388 doses and 10% were supplies taken up by MoH’s facilities.

It was reported that the demand for flu vaccine witnessed a sudden increase between the end of last year and early this year, where suppliers had allocated 40,000 doses of flu vaccines to private hospitals and clinics on Jan 7, while 99,470 additional doses are reported to be brought in this month.