Outbreak Alert 2020: H1N1 on the Prowl Again

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H1N1

H1N1 created havoc in 2009 with 78 deaths in Malaysia. Why it is making a comeback after 10 years? Image of H1N1 virus – source: Wikipedia.

I woke up this morning reading breaking news that 7 years old child in Johore had died due to influenza like illness and this was after she was initially tested negative for H1N1. It was shocking, scary and a tragedy indeed.

Read these H1N1 related posts:-

It is indeed shocking and scary because of the message that I got from my wife yesterday. I was busy with work when I got an urgent message from my wife forwarding a message from my daughter’s school teacher. The message (translated into English) reads:-

A few students from this school have been confirmed to be infected with Influenza A.

As such, parents are requested to always check on their kids and bring them to clinic immediately if they display symptoms of Influenza A and to quarantine them at home.

Please don’t forget to inform the class teacher as they are required to notify the higher authorities. As precaution, the school will be cleaning up the classes based on the guidelines from the Health Ministry.

My daughter just recovered from an upset stomach and had been on medical leave last week. And now with this message, we were in dilemma. To keep her safe at home would mean a few more days of missing school lessons. We checked for vaccination at nearby clinics but we were told that (probably due to the panicked parents), all vaccines had been sold out and they will not have any new supplies before Chinese New Year.

And now, a 7 years old girl had died from possibly H1N1. This was indeed shocking and scary because just last week, this was reported in the papers:-

Influenza A (H1N1) may be spreading like wildfire but the disease is neither serious nor deadly, says a Penang Hospital consultant physician and infectious disease specialist. Dr Leong Kar Nim, however, said while Influenza A was usually not fatal, people with certain conditions would be at higher risk of complications from flu.

“People with diabetes, liver, kidney and heart diseases, asthma and chronic lung disease, as well as pregnant women might need specific antiviral. Those with no such conditions do not need specific antiviral and they can take paracetamol to feel more comfortable.

(Source)

The disease is neither serious nor deadly?

Mind you, 10 years ago in 2009, 78 people died from this disease – so the same disease was indeed serious and deadly:-

As of 21 August 2009 the unofficial number of cases reported in the media is 5,876 so far. The first death related to the A (H1N1) virus was reported on 23 July 2009 and so far there have been 78 deaths reported.

On 6 July 2009 Malaysia announced that it was shifting from containment to mitigation to tackle the spread of the virus. The federal government has declared a national health emergency in Malaysia because of the A (H1N1) outbreak and is considering imposing a health curfew similar to the week-long shutdown of non-essential services and industries in Mexico.

(Source)

If you visit the Health Ministry’s website, there is no indication of the total Influenza cases reported. However if you gather the various news reporting, we have some indication of the numbers which is rather disturbing:-

The Penang State Health Department has recorded 10 clusters of Influenza-like Illness (ILI) involving 62 individuals with influenza in the clusters from December 29 until 12 noon yesterday.

(Source)

And

A total of 89 schoolchildren in Johor have been infected by influenza as of 1.30pm today.

According to Johor Education Department director Azman Adnan, Johor Bahru had the highest number of victims with 56 cases, followed by Kulai with 15, Tangkak (six), Kluang (five), Muar (five) and one in Batu Pahat and Pontian

(Source)

And

Up to 22 people in Cyberjaya and Klang tested positive for Influenza A on Thursday, said the Selangor Health Department (JKNS).

In Cyberjaya, 20 students and a teacher from Sekolah Kebangsaan Cyberjaya were diagnosed with the viral infection after presenting with symptoms of fever, cough and flu.

(Source)

So that is about 200 individuals who were reported in the newspapers – I am pretty sure the actual number is more last week and have increased this week. Funny part of the outbreak this time, it seems to be affecting school children more than adults. Am I missing something here?

If you all recall, there was massive outbreak in China early this year which lead me to think the consequences – how long it is going to take before it spreads to countries around the world.

It is even scary that it was reported that it is a new strain of virus – the thoughts of an evil pharmaceutical company manufacturing such virus in some lab and releasing them in public so that they can sell more vaccine did cross my mind several times in the last few days. Think about it, what you see in the movies may just be true!

Of course, I am pretty sure the same thought have been in everyone’s mind even after we got this assurance from the Health Minister:-

While an analysis undertaken by the Institute for Medical Research (IMR) and the National Public Health Laboratory (MKAK) indicates an upward trend in the influenza outbreak, it has also found that the virus is a pre-existing one, and is therefore, not new.

Announcing this today, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad also stressed that the virus was not linked in any way to the current pneumonia outbreak in Wuhan, China.

(Source)

After weighing several options and also checking with other parents, my daughter did go to school. But we need to take extra precautions and we still need to get the vaccination done before it gets worse. We pray that other parents have better sense to ensure cleanliness and taking precautions on their kids as well (obviously because there are idiots out there who don’t deserve to have kids).

Health Ministry need to put some strong action to curtail the spread of the epidemic and they need to start off with information of the number of cases reported, number of schools impacted and number of patients undergoing treatment in hospitals. They should be proactive instead of reactive.

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