Up to 30pc in eye infection cases since haze began, says Health Ministry

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad speaks to reporters here after launching the first World Patient Safety Day in Putrajaya September 17, 2019. ― Picture by Choo Choy May
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad speaks to reporters here after launching the first World Patient Safety Day in Putrajaya September 17, 2019. ― Picture by Choo Choy May

PUTRAJAYA, Sept 17 ― The Health Ministry today disclosed that the number of patients seeking treatment for eye infections nationwide have risen between 20 and 30 per cent in the last one month.

Allergy and respiratory complaints have also increased, government doctors said since thick smoke ― believed due to forest fires in Indonesia ― enveloped Malaysia with no signs of abatement any time soon.

“We're monitoring in particular three things: conjunctivitis, upper respiratory tract infection as well as asthmatic attacks.

“We have found that there's been a spike of 20 to 30 per cent at outpatient treatments and clinics for eye infections which is due to the haze situation,” Health Minister Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad told reporters here after launching the first World Patient Safety Day.

He added that periodic updates will be released to the media as the ministry continues to collect real-time data on the situation.

Distribution of hotspots detected from September 1 to 16, 2019. ― Picture via ASMC
Distribution of hotspots detected from September 1 to 16, 2019. ― Picture via ASMC

The ministry’s national head of ophthalmology services Dr Nor Fariza Ngah said there could be a link between the increase in eye infection cases and patients with asthma and those with respiratory diseases.

Dr Nor Fariza who is based at Hospital Shah Alam said that on average, the patients complaining of eye infections numbered 40 a day, and included those with allergic conjunctivitis, which is a non-infectious disease.

She added that the eye infection cases were not age-specific, noting the patients ranged from children to adults.

Dr Nor Fariza advised the public, especially those who know they are asthmatic, to seek treatment at hospitals early when they have discomfort instead of self-medicating with over-the-counter eyedrops.

“Artificial tears could help, but if you buy the wrong one, it could cause allergies,” she cautioned.

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