(Petaling Jaya, Friday): The totally unexpected first fatality from the hand, foot and mouth disease in the Klang Valley - the third death in the country in the current outbreak - has gravely undermined parental confidence nation-wide in the Health Ministry’s capability and integrity in crisis management.
As there had been no earlier report that the hand, foot and mouth disease had spread to the Klang Valley, the announcement of the death of a three-year-old son of a Pakistani expatriate at the University Hospital Medical Centre as the first news of the spread of the contagious killer child virus to Klang Valley has come as a shock to all parents that no news may not be good news.
The revelation by the University Hospital Medical Centre director, Prof Dr. Mohd Amin Jamaludin, that the centre’s department of medical microbiology had isolated enteroviruses from samples in four of the six severe cases reported to the hospital since the end of August is another shocker, and Malaysians parents want to know why the Health Ministry had kept them completely in the dark about the hand, foot and mouth disease in the Klang Valley at a time when there had been four deaths in Singapore resulting in the closure two weeks ago of all childcare centres, kindergartens and learning centres for children aged five and below in the island republic affecting about 140,000 children.
It is ironic and tragic that while Johore yesterday declared an outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease and ordered the closure of all kindergartens and play areas in the state capital, Singapore was announcing that kindergartens and childcare centres in the island republic can reopen, although pools and play areas elsewhere will have to stay closed
Parents in Johore and the rest of the country are entitled to know why the Malaysian health authorities had not been able to learn from the outbreak of the disease in Singapore to keep it under control in the country, and Malayia is now suffering a full-blown outbreak of the disease - when in the past, the Singapore health authorities had been able to take effective steps to minimise the effects of contagious diseases in Malaysia from spreading to the island republic.
The latest foot, hand and mouth epidemic is the latest blot in the service
record of the Health Minister, Datuk Chua Jui Meng, after the disastrous
Nipah virus epidemic last year and the enterovirus (EV) 71 epidemic in
Sarawak in 1997.