Fisherman on board Malaysia-registered vessel dies from leptospirosis

SIBU - A fisherman from China on board a Malaysian-registered fishing vessel has died from leptospirosis after being warded at the Sibu Hospital, where 10 others are still being treated for the same illness.

According to the Assistant Minister of Public Health, Datuk Dr Jerip Susil, their condition is reported to be stable. He said the 59-year-old victim died due to the disease on June 18 after being admitted to the hospital with 10 others on June 15.

"On June 19, the Sibu Division Health Office received 10 notifications of leptospirosis from the Sibu Hospital. The report was later made known to the divisional health officer, following which he ordered intensive investigations," added Dr Jerip.

He said investigations showed that of the 11 China nationals - all fishermen - 10 were found to be positive for leptospirosis.

Dr Jerip said all of them work for Jifu Fishery (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd, which is based in Tanjung Manis, Mukah.

"They had embarked on their journey from Dalian district, China on Jan 1, but subsequently faced food and water shortage since March, and had to rely on rain water from then.

"Prior to their arrival at the Tanjung Manis port on June 17, their vessel was at the South China Sea on June 15, near Bintulu, waiting for clearance to enter the port," said Dr Jerip, who added the fishermen also bought bottled water at the Miri and Bintulu ports.

When Dr Jerip was asked about what steps were being taken to prevent people in Tanjung Manis from being infected by them, he said that leptospirosis was spread by rats.

"It is infectious but not as fast-spreading as other pathogens. It is important that those in Tanjung Manis port take all precautions relating to environmental as well as personal hygiene. Boil all drinking water and wash your hands thoroughly," he said.

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