No cause for alarm over H7N9 in Malaysia

PUTRAJAYA - The Health Ministry has advised the public not to panic over the recent outbreak of Influenza A (H7N9) in China because no cases have been detected here.

Director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, who disclosed this, said the situation in China was also improving with fewer cases reported.

"What's important is that WHO (World Health Organisation) has not put out any travel alarm on China, so it is unnecessary to tell people not to go to China and to stop imports (of chicken).

"The alarm has not been raised at a world level, and more so in Malaysia ... We have no documentation of H7N9 (cases) in Malaysia," he told reporters after the launch of World Nurses Day 2013 here.

Earlier this week, livestock industry players joined the chorus of calls for the Government to halt the entry of chicken consignments from China, fearing the possible spread of the deadly strain of avian flu, which has reportedly claimed 33 lives so far.

Dr Noor Hisham cautioned against pushing for such drastic measures, pointing out that WHO was coordinating monitoring efforts and working closely with countries in the region to make sure the pandemic did not spill over from China's borders.

He noted that there were currently 98 shipments of chicken en-route to Malaysia since the H7N9 virus struck China in March.

"Monitoring is in place and we are following it very closely. If one shipment is compromised, all the shipments will be cancelled ... but what is important is to not create unnecessary alarm in the country,'' he added.

On a separate matter, ministry secretary-general Datuk Faridah Mohd Ali said the current deployment of nurses nationwide was being re-examined with a view of increasing their numbers to meet growing demand.

She said more than 4,000 new nursing positions had been created to complement the 110,800 nationwide.

She said there was a need to bring in nurses from private hospitals as a temporary measure to help at public hospitals.

"We will look at the need for more nurses in future and with the increase in new (public medical) facilities, we will definitely be in need of more of them," Faridah added.