KUALA LUMPUR, May 5 – Hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) cases in Malaysia increased by 12.8 times this year up to the 17th epidemiological week compared to the same period in 2021.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) reported 22,463 HFMD cases nationwide this year until the 17th epidemiological week ending April 30, compared to 1,752 cases in the 17th week of last year.
About 96 per cent (21,508) of this year’s HFMD cases up till April 30 were reported among children aged six years and under, followed by those aged seven to 12 years (3 per cent).
A total of 767 outbreaks of HFMD – caused by the enterovirus that is transmitted through saliva, blisters, and faeces – have been reported in Malaysia, primarily in Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya with 269 outbreaks (33.7 per cent), Selangor with 100 outbreaks (13 per cent), and Perak with 98 outbreaks (12.8 per cent).
HFMD outbreaks this year primarily occurred in kindergartens, taska, and preschools with 600 outbreaks (72 per cent), followed by private residences with 186 outbreaks (24 per cent), and child care centres with 26 outbreaks (4 per cent).
HFMD symptoms include fever and blisters on the hand, foot, mouth, and tongue, with most patients recovering in seven to 10 days without treatment. However, enterovirus 71 can cause severe complications like encephalitis, pulmonary edema, and myocarditis, said Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.
Preventive measures against HFMD include washing hands with soap and clean water after using the toilet and changing babies’ diapers, and before preparing food, besides frequently cleaning all toys and surfaces at least twice daily.
Dr Noor Hisham also advised parents not to send their child with symptoms to school, kindergarten, or child care centres, or to high-traffic public places like swimming pools and shopping centres, but to bring their sick child to the clinic instead.
HFMD cases may have increased this year because of the country’s reopening after a series of lockdowns throughout most of 2021 amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Dengue Rises Nearly 40% Year-On-Year
Reported dengue fever cases increased by 39.6 per cent year-on-year, from 9,270 cases up to the 17th week in 2021 to 12,942 cases in the same period this year.
Seven deaths from dengue were reported this year up to the 17th week ending April 30, compared to five in the same period last year.
Dengue cases rose 5.6 per cent in the 17th week of this year with 1,021 infections compared to 967 cases in the previous week.
Symptoms of dengue fever, caused by bites of infected Aedes mosquitoes, include fever, red rashes on the skin, headache, pain behind one’s eyes, joint pain, muscle pain, and bleeding under the skin, nose, and gums.
The Health DG advised people to ensure that one’s home is free from unnecessary containers that collect water to prevent mosquitoes from breeding in stagnant water and to use mosquito repellant when outside.
MOH also advised medical practitioners to do a full blood count on Day Three for patients with persistent fever and to give patients suspected of having dengue fever a dengue alert card and to do a dengue combo test.
Dr Noor Hisham told the public to use the infectious disease tracker on MySejahtera that informs users on the number of active cases of Covid-19, dengue, rabies, measles, and HFMD in their vicinity.
“This feature can help the public to plan their daily activities and travel more carefully after identifying areas of risk in different radiuses according to the disease.”
There is an existing dengue hotspot tracker developed by MOH and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation called iDengue.
The MySejahtera mobile app simply states the number of cases within a certain radius from one’s location, without any explanation on what figure is considered to be concerning or what exactly one should do with the information.
After check-in mandates were lifted on May 1, the number of daily check-ins and unique users checking into public premises on the Covid-19 app plummeted.
About one million unique MySejahtera accounts checked in on May 4, just 9 per cent of a high of 11.3 million last December 31.