Friday, April 26

Confirmed! It’s EV71

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Death of Daro toddler due to infection by HFMD-linked virus

Dr Lee Boon Chye

SIBU: The Health Ministry yesterday confirmed that the death of the toddler from Kampung Pangtray in Daro, Mukah on July 28 at Sibu Hospital was due to Enterovirus 71 (EV71) – one of the major causative agents of hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD).

Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye in a WhatsApp message to The Borneo Post confirmed the agent associated with the death of the victim.

“One mortality for Penang (is) confirmed (to be) due to EV71. The mortality case for Sarawak (is) also confirmed (to be from) EV71,” he said when contacted.

He added that as of yesterday (Aug 1), Sarawak recorded a total of 4,708 HFMD cases, while the overall figure nationwide stood at 40,949.

Asked on EV71 that is believed to have killed some 31 Sarawakian children in 1997 and whether this comeback after a lapse of almost 10 years (the last case according to records was in 2009) is a cause for concern, Dr Lee said: “So far, the cases of mortality look isolated but we are monitoring closely.”

He, however, advised parents to do frequent hand washing, keep their home surrounding and toys of their children clean, and to properly dispose of diapers.

“If a child is suspected to be down with HFMD, seek medical advice and do not bring them to schools or childcare centres. To caretakers and schools, keep the surrounding and toys clean.

“Screen every child at the entry point and if there is suspicion of HFMD, refer the child to a doctor straight away. Teach children and students the importance of personal hygiene,” Dr Lee advised.

Meanwhile, a source disclosed to The Borneo Post that the toddler’s six-year-old sister was also hospitalised with HFMD a day after the victim, but was able to recover.

“She was discharged and went home two days ago,” the source said.

The EV71 virus was implicated as the major causative agent in the outbreak of acute viral infection in Sarawak which resulted in 31 deaths among children aged from five months to six years in mid-1997.

During that outbreak, most of the infected children died within hours of admission to hospital due to acute congestive heart failure and cardiovascular collapse which was suggestive of acute viral myocarditis.

According to reports, the occurrence of the fatal infections in the midst of simultaneous outbreaks of EV71-associated HFMD raised the possibility that EV71 was associated with the deaths.

Large outbreaks with fatalities have continued to be seen in three-yearly cycles in Sarawak – in 2003, 2006 and 2009.

The Daro toddler, who was two years and five months old, came down with a fever on July 24, before showing signs of rashes on the palms and feet, as well as ulcers in the mouth the following day, according to an earlier statement by Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

The child was taken to the Daro Health Clinic on July 25 and diagnosed with suspected HFMD before receiving treatment. On July 27, the victim was taken to Daro Hospital and was then referred to Sibu Hospital where the child died the next morning.