Typhoid outbreak in KL, health ministry still looking for source

The health ministry said they were still in the midst of identifying the source of a typhoid outbreak in Kuala Lumpur. A Google Maps screenshot shows the KL General Hospital.
The health ministry said they were still in the midst of identifying the source of a typhoid outbreak in Kuala Lumpur. A Google Maps screenshot shows the KL General Hospital.

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KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 19 — The health ministry today said they are still in the midst of identifying the source of a typhoid outbreak in the city, as a total of 32 cases have been reported over the past two and a half months.

The ministry’s director-general, Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, said they have conducted epidemiological investigations in the field in areas where cases have been reported, but have yet to come to conclusively determine the source of infection or the types of food consumed, as there have been no similarities between the cases.

The 32 patients include seven construction workers living in Cheras reported in the first week of August, while Titiwangsa had the highest number of confirmed cases at 16 followed by Kepong (8), Lembah Pantai (4) and four more in Cheras as of yesterday.

No deaths have been reported.

The ministry has since screened 37 points of contact including family members, colleagues and those handling food at 24 premises, and also collected 79 stool samples and four water supply samples to find any signs of Salmonella – the bacteria responsible for the disease.

“To date no samples have tested positive for Salmonella typhii. Inspections have also been done on ice factories. In the meantime, monitoring and control of water supply systems are ongoing to ensure water supply in WPKL is good,” Dr Noor Hisham said in a statement, referring to the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur.

Typhoid fever is transmitted through food or drinks contaminated with Salmonella typhii, and symptoms usually arise between one and three weeks after infection. These include lethargy, fever, stomach aches, constipation, headaches, diarrhea and vomiting.

If left untreated, it could lead to complications such as bleeding and puncturing of the intestinal tract, brain inflammation, psychosis and other symptoms, or become a carrier without any symptoms.

Dr Noor Hisham noted that typhoid fever is not uncommon in parts of Malaysia, with anywhere between seven and 35 cases reported annually in Kuala Lumpur alone over the past five years.

He said it typically happens in areas that have poor access to treated water supply and low personal and environmental sanitary standards, and transmission could happen through unsafe and unhealthy methods of handling food.

The ministry advised the public to pay particular attention to the level of cleanliness at shops they frequent, including the cleanliness of the staff and the food being served.

“Hot food that has just been cooked should be a main choice. Personal hygiene should also be a priority especially washing hands before eating, after eating and after using the toilet. Seek early treatment if you experience any symptoms of typhoid fever to avoid complications.

“The Malaysian Health Ministry is also working hard to implement preventive measures and control to avoid the further spread of this disease,” Dr Noor Hisham said, adding that updates will be issued periodically.

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