Health Ministry Rules Measles Killed Bateq People

Officials rule out heavy metal poisoning as cause of death.

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 25 — The Health Ministry concluded today that 12 of 16 Bateq people’s deaths in Kampung Kuala Koh, Gua Musang, was related to measles, amid doubt over the finding.

Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad said from June 3 to September 10, a total of 16 deaths were reported, with four confirmed due to measles, eight with epidemiology similarities to measles, and the remaining four unidentified due to the advanced decomposition of the bodies.

According to forensic reports and environmental sample analysis, the deaths did not occur due to heavy metal poisoning, said Dzulkefly.

Officials took samples of drinking water sources, soil, and food (dry salted fish) to test for heavy metals, microorganisms and pesticides.

“The results showed that the indigenous drinking water sources of tap water, river water and wells comply with the standards of raw water quality for drinking and pesticides, but the drinking water is contaminated with some pathogenic bacteria,” he said in a statement today.

The minister said from June 3 to September 10, 213 cases of respiratory infections were reported, 123 of which were confirmed to be measles — comprising 75 cases in Kelantan, 44 in Terengganu, and four in Pahang.

The Federation of Private Medical Practitioners’ Association Malaysia (FPMPAM), which treated the Bateq people in Kuala Koh last April before a string of casualties hit the village, previously said clinical evidence showed that measles was not the only cause of death, pointing out that 10 of 15 victims were adults, not children.

FPMPAM also said its tests in the Kelantan village showed the Bateq people’s sole water supply was polluted, unsafe, and toxic, as it contained high faecal contamination and toxic levels of manganese.

FPMPAM president Dr Steven Chow told the Guardian earlier this month that the Bateq people’s habitat was a “death trap”.

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