Friday, August 21, 2009

High death toll: Gov't seeks help from WHO

High death toll: Gov't seeks help from WHO
Aug 20, 09 7:49pm
Three experts from the World Health Organisation (WHO) are to study the rising mortality rate due to the influenza A(H1N1) in the country as the death toll hit 68 today.

Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai said Malaysia had requested the WHO to send three epidemiologists to look into the H1N1 deaths, especially why some patients developed pneumonia so fast and died in a short period.

"They would study the classification of the death due to H1N1. Some died due to co-morbid (presence of more than one disease or health condition in an individual at a given time) causes and some die from direct infection. We want them to look into the classification of death for H1N1 so that we will not over report or under report.

"This is to ensure that we can set a fair comparison as we have already adopted the WHO's guideline on this matter. The WHO will look into our death cases and observe the situation.

"The epidemiologists arrived here yesterday and have already started their work today," he told Bernama.

Health Ministry statistics showed that of the 68 deaths, 70 percent were due to co-morbid causes, 20 percent due to late treatment and 10 percent, mostly involving children, are direct infections.

Study on why the virus spread so fast

Liow said the WHO experts would also study the spread of the H1N1 at the community level to determine why the virus spread so fast in this country compared with others.

According to health experts, the age group most likely to contract A(H1N1) flu is between five and 24.

However, some experts said the number of Influenza A(H1N1) deaths in Malaysia may be higher than that of its neighbours, but the fatality rate of people with confirmed H1N1 is not remarkably high.

Dr Christopher Lee, consultant physician and head of infectious diseases at the Sungai Buloh Hospital, during a recent briefing to the media, said this was especially when one considered WHO estimation that 15-20 cases went unreported for every case of confirmed A(H1N1).

Following this, it is understood that the Health Ministry has requested the WHO's help to study the death rate and come up with a fair comparison to ensure that it does not under-report or over-report cases.

- Bernama

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