Dept denies contagious disease outbreak in Miri

The two-week period is standard, but the re-inspection can be done early as long as the (operator of the) food premises concerned is fully committed to taking the necessary actions to rectify the situation.
Dr Jamilah Hashim, Sarawak Health Department director

MIRI:  The state Health Department has denied there is an outbreak of a mysterious disease affecting children here as viralled in the social media.

Its director Dr Jamilah Hashim said the posting is not correct and verification by her office showed there is no drastic rise in any contagious disease in the city.

“However, the Miri Hospital management has confirmed there is a slight increase in admissions, especially in the children’s ward since early February,” she said in statement issued in Kuching last night.

She pointed out that it is normal after a festive season and the admissions are due to various reasons and not because of any contagious disease.

Members of the public who need verification on messages viralled can contact the ‘Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre’ of the Sarawak Health Department on 082-443248, Dr Jamilah added.

She made the statement in response to a social media message making its round that the director of Miri Hospital has instructed all clinics and hospitals to report any influenza-related illness (ILI) or severe acute respiratory illness (Sari) to Miri Hospital following an outbreak in Miri.

It claimed that three children are fighting for their lives in the Intensive Care Unit of Miri Hospital, with organ failure and other ailments, advising parents with young children to stay away from Miri.

The symptoms cited were lack of appetite, coughing and fever among children affected by the ailment.

This viral message has caused alarm in and outside Miri on social media, warning parents against bringing children to Miri due to this outbreak where the cause is yet to be known.

The message even claimed that hundreds of children were admitted to Miri Hospital.

Another post countered the message, saying that while there had been an increase in number of respiratory related illnesses admitted in Miri Hospital, the hospital’s ILI sentinel clinic did not record any significant increase in ILI cases.

The hospital director has instructed all private and government clinics and hospitals to report promptly ILI and Sari cases here.

Also circulated was an internal circular of the hospital director instructing suspension of all elective operations due to the surge in hospital admissions, including ICU beds all fully taken up and 11 cases on mechanical ventilation.

The circular dated March 7 to all heads of departments and units said the suspension of elective operations scheduled for March 12-16 is necessary to overcome the shortage of manpower and equipment in view of the surge of patient admissions.

Sources said the congested Miri Hospital, which is in need of urgent expansion and upgrading, was simply re-organising resources to meet the situational demand due to higher admissions and it was not solely due to a spike in ILI cases.

A photo of a class being closed for lessons in Miri was also viralled and linked to the alleged ILI outbreak in Miri.

Assistant Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Lee Kim Shin, who is Senadin assemblyman, when contacted, said he had been informed of the viral messages on ILI outbreak and had contacted Miri Hospital for verification.

“They told me that it was not true but the Miri Hospital will issue an official statement later after receiving the green light from the Ministry of Health,” he said.

He said the spike in ILI cases after the Chinese New Year celebration was seasonal and the allegation that hundreds of children were admitted to hospital was far-fetched.

Lee, however, denied that an outbreak of ILI cases had forced the closure of a school.

“It was a precautionary move and involved only one class to stop the spread of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) and not flu-related,” he said.

He said he was informed that there were no hospital admissions for HFMD cases.


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