Not common for those with H1N1, HFMD to die: Malaysia Health Minister

PUTRAJAYA - The deaths of two pupils who suffered from two common diseases - H1N1 and HFM (hand, foot and mouth) - have left the Health Ministry puzzled.

The cause of the deaths is yet to be confirmed, but Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said it was unusual for those suffering from these diseases to die.

"H1N1 and HFM are two common diseases in the country. The viruses are always around us, but to have people who were suffering from the diseases to die is not common.

"I am not saying it cannot happen, but it is not common because there have been a lot of H1N1 or HFM cases in the country and those suffering from it recovered well and uneventfully," he said before chairing his ministry's post-Cabinet meeting here yesterday.

An 11-year-old boy, who was treated at the Malacca Hospital on April 9 and transferred to the intensive care unit of a private hospital the next day, died on Tuesday, while in Johor, a Year One girl suffered from fever and pain on her arms and mouth for five days before being admitted to the Hospital Sultan Ismail on Friday. She died on Saturday.

However, he said the public need not panic over the deaths as the two diseases were not known to be deadly, adding that the ministry was monitoring the situation.

Asked for the details on the cause of death of the Malacca boy, he said checks by the hospital showed a positive H1N1.

"Based on that, the doctors thought everything was due to H1N1, but a computerised tomography (CT) scan and an MRI on him showed encephalomyelitis, which means the child also had an infection of the brain.

"In all probability, the brain infection would have been more severe than the chest infection caused by H1N1. However, we would not know whether the brain infection was also due to H1N1 because it has not been confirmed yet.

"The doctor has written it as viral encephalitis secondary to H1N1 and we have to accept it for the time being," he said.

On the Johor case, Dr Subramaniam said the ministry was still waiting for the confirmation on the cause of death from the National Public Health Laboratory in Sungai Buloh.

"Until we get the confirmation, we won't speculate on the cause of death," he added.