Monday, December 5, 2011

The Health Minister must explain

Lockdown at RMAF base

24 trainee commandos in hospital for suspected leptospirosis infection
Friday, December 2nd, 2011 10:21:00
Bukit Jugra RMAF base

SHUTDOWN: Health Ministry officers will conduct checks at the Bukit Jugra RMAF base (top) while infected commandos are being housed in the maternity ward at Hospital Banting

BANTING: The Bukit Jugra RMAF base is under lockdown after 24 trainee commandos were admitted for suspected leptospirosis infection.

Two of them are in critical condition, while Health Ministry officials have descended on the army base since Monday to ensure there is no outbreak.

The trainees have been quarantined in the maternity ward of the Banting Hospital. Two of them are in critical condition, with one trainee transferred to the Kuala Lumpur Hospital yesterday.

The condition of the remaining 22 trainees was reported to be stable. Thery will be released only after tests are complete — expected to be in a few days.

According to sources, the patients were brought there on Monday evening for food poisoning.

A security guard said family members and friends of the trainees, who turned up at the hospital earlier in the day, were not allowed to enter the ward.

“They just sat here and waited for hours. All they wanted was to see the trainees, but no one was allowed to go in. They left after talking to doctors on duty,” he said.

The guards said they were given strict orders by the hospital management not allow anyone to enter.

A hospital staff who contacted The Malay Mail said they were given strict orders by hospital management and military commandants to keep the situation under wraps.

Hospital Banting director Dr Rozita Mohamed confirmed the commandos were admitted there but declined to comment further.

Visiting the hospital yesterday, The Malay Mail found the 22 commandos housed at the maternity ward.

A hospital staff said there were two maternity wards and whenever a high number of patients were admitted with the same problem, they were kept at one of the wards, also known as “Ward 2”.

A nurse, who declined to be identified, said as patients were quarantined, they had to be housed in a separate ward.

“The hospital is taking precautionary measures as the disease may be contagious.”

Defence Minister Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi yesterday confirmed the soldiers were infected by leptospirosis, which is commonly associated with rat’s urine.

Sources said it was believed the commandos could have been infected from the food or water they consumed.

Health Ministry officers are conducting checks at the RMAF base, including scouring the Bukit Jugra jungle area where the victims are believed to have undergone final training.

The health officers are also inspecting the airbase’s water tanks and water outlets to see if the food or water source could have been contaminated.

Disease spread through animal urine

PETALING JAYA: Leptospirosis is a rare disease which infects humans exposed to bacteria contaminated by animal urine and is contagious as long as the bacteria remain moist.

The main carriers are rats, moles and mice but a large range of other mammals, such as dogs, deer, rabbits, hedgehogs, cows, sheep, raccoons, opossums, skunks, and certain marine mammals, are able to carry and transmit the disease as secondary hosts.

Wikipedia states: “There have been reports of ‘house dogs’ contracting leptospirosis apparently from licking the urine of infected mice that enter houses. The types of habitats most likely to carry infective bacteria are muddy riverbanks, ditches, gullies, and muddy livestock rearing areas where there is a regular passage of either wild or farm mammals.”

The disease can infect humans through contact with water, food, or soil containing urine from these infected animals. This may happen by swallowing contaminated food or water, or through skin contact if there are cuts on the skin and is not known to spread from human contact.

Studies have also shown there is a direct correlation between the amount of rainfall and incidence of leptospirosis, making it seasonal in temperate climates and year-round in tropical climates.

Occupations at risk of being infected by leptospirosis include veterinarians, slaughterhouse workers, farmers, sewer workers, and people working on derelict buildings. Rowers are also known to contract the disease.

The Health Ministry’s website states leptospirosis’s symptoms include an average incubation period of 10 days and the disease starts with fever, shivering, body aches and headache.

Other symptoms are coughing without phlegm, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea. Symptoms, such as joint and bone aches, sore threat and stomach aches, are the least reported symptoms.

Victims might also suffer from muscle aches, enlarged liver or speen, swollen sweat glands, sore threat, rashes, lung problems and stiff muscles.

Most leptospirosis cases are treatable although there are cases of deaths when complication arise.

Supportive treatment is needed for complicated cases and it is advisable to avoid stagnant water or pools as these are areas where the bacteria habitats.

Spate of cases this year

THIS year witnessed at least five reports of leptospirosis scare or outbreaks nationwide, from Penang to Kuala Krai and all the way to Sarawak.

The biggest case was reported by the Sarawak Health Department on Nov 8 with 96 confirmed cases in Bintulu over a period of 21 months.

It, however. pointed out the State’s overall incident is 1.9 individuals per 100,000 population, far below the threshold for any disease to be considered an outbreak.

Another reported incident occurred on Oct 17 when 11 infected orang asli school children from SK Sungai Berua were hospitalised at the Sultanah Nur Zahirah Hospital and Hulu Terengganu Hospital in Terengganu.

Minister briefed by forces chief

DEFENCE Minister Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi said he was briefed on the outbreak of the leptosirosis cases by Armed Forces chief Gen Tan Sri Zulkifeli Mohd Zin yesterday.

“The authorities conducted extermination exercises at the camp, including the living quarters of those hospitalised,” he told The Malay Mail.

Asked whether the camp would be quarantined, Zahid said they were waiting for a report from the Health Corps director-general before proceeding further.

He said the family members of those affected had been were notified.

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This is how UMNO cares for the people. Keep quiet, don't let the public in on this.

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