KUALA LUMPUR, June 20 — The Ministry of Health (MoH) today denied claims it took too long to help the Orang Asli from the Batek tribe in Kuala Koh, Gua Musang who were infected with measles.
In a press conference at the MoH headquarters in Putrajaya today, minister Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad refuted a report from The Star published on June 18 quoting MCA’s deputy president Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon as saying that the MoH’s delay was a disgrace.
“I’d like to point out that this article in The Star accusing us of being slow in our response is absolutely false.
“We caught wind of the case in Kuala Koh on June 3 and on the same day we dispatched personnel from the Gua Musang district health clinic and the Orang Asli Development Department to investigate.
“They found 29 Orang Asli who had breathing difficulties. All of them were brought to Aring Health Clinic and Chiku 3 Health Clinic for treatment. We then declared on that very same day, that there was a possibility of highly contagious disease and efforts to curb it from spreading were taken.
“So please be more responsible in your reports,” Dzulkefly told members of the media.
Dzulkefly said that from June 3 to June 18, the Kelantan Health Agency found 113 cases of breathing difficulty from Kampung Koh.
On June 18, six cases were confirmed to have measles after lab tests returned positive. This brings the tally to 43 cases.
53 cases are still being treated in the hospital, with 51 of those in the normal ward while the other two are in intensive care unit.
A total of 12 cases were deemed non-threatening and were moved into the outpatient unit at Rumah Inap Kesihatan Orang Asli, while another seven were placed at National Service Training Centre in Gua Musang.
Dzulkefly confirmed that the death toll is still at three while they are currently conducting autopsies on another 12 bodies.
“We expect the results of these tests to come back in two to three days and then we will know what was the cause of their death,” he said.
“I want to assure everyone that all steps have been taken to ensure this disease doesn’t spread.”
As to reports stating the disease is spreading to other states, he said: “So far we have no reported cases among the Orang Asli community in Kg. Gerdong, Hulu Terengganu not Kampung Ulu Sat in Jerantut, Pahang.
“In response to this outbreak the district health agencies have planned immunisation activities to try to reach as many of these minorities as we can regardless of age or gender.”
Dzulkefly also said he was just informed of the case in Pasir Gudang where 15 kids collapsed from suspected inhalation of deadly gas.
The incident took place at Taman Mawar Religious school which is seven kilometres from Sungai Kim Kim which was polluted by toxic waste in March.
“I just got wind of it as I came out of the meeting and I’ve been informed the Johor health agencies have mobilised and are on top of it.
“We won’t be shutting down the schools until we can determine the reasons for them falling ill, the levels of toxicity and so on,” he explained.
When pressed on what he felt was the cause of the kids falling ill the minister said: “The symptoms look most likely to be either poisonous gas or volatile organic gas.”
Sungai Kim Kim was used to dump chemical waste and poisonous gas emanating from the 1.5km stretch of river caused more than 400 people to be affected with clean up costs in the millions.