Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A(H1N1): Private bodies to get rapid test kits (Update)

PUTRAJAYA: As the death toll from Influenza A (H1N1) rose to 38, the Government green-lighted the use of rapid test kits for private clinics and hospitals to conduct flu checks on the public.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said private healthcare providers can use these kits to help cope with the large number of patients wanting to be checked, and for faster detection and containment of the pandemic.

“Use of rapid test kits was discouraged in the private sector earlier when the H1N1 outbreak was still small and mostly imported.

“Now that it has reached the community level, it’s important to detect it fast and treat it quickly,” he said after checking Serdang Hospital’s service centre for patients with flu-like symptoms.

He said the Government-approved rapid test kits could diagnose patients in15 minutes and were about 70%-90% accurate.

He said that patients in high-risk categories such as those with respiratory disorders can be admitted for treatment without waiting for the results.

On school closures, Liow said a Health Ministry technical committee was developing new guidelines that will be applicable to both schools and universities.

“Now that the situation has changed to the mitigation stage, new guidelines are needed to ensure that schools follow the same policies,” he said.

He added that many schools were closing on their own accord when they had several students having flu-like symptoms.

“So we need new comprehensive guidelines which we will implement quickly so there is no panic at the community level,” he said.

Liow also told suppliers of the rapid test kits and face masks not to raise their prices because all sectors had to contribute to help stop the viral outbreak.

“Do not increase prices because the H1N1 flu is a matter of national security,” he said.

He said suppliers who raised their price unnecessarily will have to answer to the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry.

Liow also reminded public event organisers to take steps to prevent the spread of the virus by preparing hand sanitisers and masks.

“If anyone has flu-like symptoms, they must also be responsible by isolating themselves and not go to public gatherings such as weddings and other social functions,” he said.

Liow ruled out a need to call for a state of emergency with the current A(H1N1) situation, saying that social distancing programmes and measures sufficed for now.

He also said that anti-viral drugs of various types were currently being distributed to government hospitals and clinics.

He reiterated an earlier Health Ministry announcement that the volume of the anti-viral drugs had been increased from 10% to 20% of the total population.

Earlier, Health Ministry director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said there were six more deaths reported over the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 38.

He said the number of new cases recorded was also at an all-time high of 270, bringing the total number of cases in Malaysia to 2,253, reports DHARMENDER SINGH.

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