Annie Freeda Cruez
Private clinics and hospitals can also buy the drug from their suppliers and pharmacies starting today to treat patients but must ensure that:
- it is prescribed to only those with underlying diseases, high risk groups such as pregnant women, those who are obese, asthmatic, diabetic, low immunity, and heart problem and showing symptoms of H1N1;
- it is given to those highly suspected of having the disease such as those who came back from overseas, had confirmed cases in their schools and workplaces, came in contact with a confirmed victim and having symptoms; and,
- it is strictly not prescribed for those who are healthy and have no symptoms of the disease as taking it under such circumstances would negate the effects of the drug when they actually contract the virus.
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said in many countries such as the United States, Hong Kong, Mexico, Japan, Denmark and Canada, citizens had taken the drug as a “prophylaxis” but this had proven counterproductive.
Dr Ismail also called on pharmacists nationwide not to dispense the drug to anyone without prescription from a doctor.
“We have no problem controlling the drug in government hospitals and health clinics. We are worried about the private sector. People must understand that the drug needs to be used carefully as countries around the world are sharing the supply,” he added.
Dr Ismail also urged healthcare providers to take every precaution to avoid being infected. He said there were doctors and staff in four public and private hospitals nationwide down with H1N1.
Over the past 24 hours, 16 new cases of H1N1 have been confirmed while another person has died, bringing the death toll from the virus to 14. There have been 1,492 confirmed cases of H1N1 to date.
The latest to succumb to the virus was a 57-year-old man who suffered from diabetes and hypertension. He had been admitted to the Putrajaya Hospital on Tuesday and died the following day.
Globally, there were 199,146 confirmed cases with 1,446 deaths reported in 171 countries.
In Malaysia, 1,421 people have recovered while 11 are being treated in intensive care units, while 43 others are being treated with antiviral drugs in isolation wards. Asked if all the people who died had co-morbid problems, Dr Ismail said only two did not.
He urged members of the public not to insist on doctors in private and public hospitals and clinics to take throat swabs unnecessarily as the Institute for Medical Research was flooded with some 300 to 500 throat swabs daily.
He also urged doctors to take swabs of only those whom they deemed absolutely necessary. Those who are treated as outpatients, Dr Ismail said, should watch out for danger signs such as shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, turning blue, coughing out blood, continued high fever, low blood pressure to quickly go to the nearest hospital.