KOTA KINABALU, Jan 21 — Sabah Health and People’s Well Being Minister Datuk Frankie Poon has confirmed Sekolah Kebangsaan Stella Maris has been ordered to close for a week starting tomorrow to curb the spread of the Influenza A virus, also known as H1N1.
Poon said six students from the school have contracted the infectious flu virus and the school and district health authorities thought the best course of action was to send all children home in a preventive measure.
“It is confirmed the school will close. This was issued by the state health department but of course, this is not a serious situation. There are many steps that can be taken to contain it, and this was the chosen course of action.
“We could also just send the six sick children home, but it’s the festive season and we wanted to make sure this didn’t spread any further,” Poon told reporters at the state administrative building this afternoon.
He stressed that the Influenza A outbreak is not an epidemic.
Pictures of the closure notice for the school had started circulating on social media platforms such as WhatsApp earlier this morning, sparking concern of an epidemic just ahead of Chinese New Year, which falls on January 25 and 26 this year.
Citing regulations under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988, the notice by the National Health Department ordered Sekolah Kebangsaan Stella Maris closed from tomorrow to January 28, while the authorities sterilise the premises to contain the virus.
Poon gave an assurance that the health authorities have things in control and said that he personally did not see a need to close the entire school.
“This was the action taken by the person in charge. We have no issue with that but there are many ways to handle the situation. They chose to do it this way,” he said.
Sabah Health Department director Datuk Dr Christina Rundi said the authorities are monitoring the H1N1 situation daily, which was when they noticed a higher than usual rate of children getting influenza at the school.
“They were under some pressure from the Parents Teachers Association of the school to close. It’s actually not necessary to close the school unless it has been identified as the source of infection. But in this case, the decision was made at the district level.
“In the future, we will look at other criteria before deciding to close a school,” she said.