Health Ministry confirms 12 Orang Asli children died of measles

Members of the Batek tribe in Kampung Kuala Koh and Kampung Aring 5 are checked before their measles vaccinations in Gua Musang July 2, 2019. — Bernama pic
Members of the Batek tribe in Kampung Kuala Koh and Kampung Aring 5 are checked before their measles vaccinations in Gua Musang July 2, 2019. — Bernama pic

PUTRAJAYA, Sept 25 — The Health Ministry today confirmed the cause of death of 12 Orang Asli in Kampung Kuala Koh, Kelantan, was measles, and not heavy metal poisoning as alleged.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad said based on the environmental sample analysis results and the forensic report, four died of measles while the death of eight others were related to the epidemiological outbreak.

He added several environmental samples such as drinking water, soil, and food sources were taken to test for the presence of heavy metals, micro-organisms, and pesticides.

“The checks also found that the drinking water source such as tap water catchment area, rivers, and wells complied with the raw water quality standards for drinking and is free from pesticides.

“But the drinking water source was contaminated with some pathogenic bacteria,” he told reporters at a press conference here today.

Brushing off the claim that the cause of death was due to heavy metal poisoning, Dr Dzulkefly said, although tests showed the presence of such metals, it did not reach to the lethal dosage level.

In summary, he added the outbreak of respiratory tract infections among the Batek tribe in Kuala Koh, from June 3 to September 10, was due to measles outbreaks.

“The factors contributing to the outbreak and death were due to low immunity coverage, and nutritional deficiencies among Orang Asli children.

“The nomadic lifestyle and the customary way of entering the forest due to illness or death among Orang Asli contributed to the delay in getting treatment until the infection spreads further,” he added.

Dr Dzulkefly said control and prevention measures involving various agencies were implemented and would be continued.

They include health education related to hygiene, food safety, nutrition, the importance of immunisation, disease prevention and the importance of getting early treatment. — Bernama

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