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Influenza virus not new, not linked to China outbreak - Dzulkefly

While an analysis undertaken by the Institute for Medical Research and the National Public Health Laboratory indicates an upward trend in the influenza outbreak, it has also found that the virus is a pre-existing one, and is not new.

Announcing this today, Health Minister Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad (photo) also stressed that the virus was not linked in any way to the current pneumonia outbreak in Wuhan, China.

The analysis involved a study of the rate of consultations on influenza-like illnesses and the rate of ward admissions of patients with Severe Acute Respiratory Infection (Sari), Dzulkefly told reporters after launching a blood donation campaign organised by the Sekolah Tun Fatimah alumni in Kuala Lumpur.

The minister added that for the moment, the ministry still did not have the policy to provide the influenza vaccine to the public, except to high-risk patients at government hospitals - such patients include those with chronic diseases or impaired immune systems.

He refuted a shortage of hospital beds at government and private health facilities as reported by a local media portal, explaining that not all influenza cases, be they suspected or confirmed cases, needed to be admitted.

Only patients who fulfilled the moderate or severe illness criteria, following tests, would be admitted for further treatment.

On the matter of influenza vaccines being out of stock, Dzulkefly said the ministry had requested suppliers to replenish the stocks urgently to meet the country's needs, and many private health facilities which had previously reported a shortage of anti-viral medication, have begun receiving their supplies.

"For Health Ministry facilities, Pharmaniaga has given an assurance that anti-viral medicine stocks will continue to be supplied without any interruption to ensure there are sufficient supplies at all times.

"It should be remembered that usage of anti-viral medicines needs to be appropriately considered by doctors as there is a possibility for resistance to the medicines to occur (among patients) if they are used arbitrarily without any control," he clarified.

A total of 52 percent of respiratory tract infections were recorded at educational institutions such as schools, kindergartens and hostels but this had not led to the closure of the affected institutions because the outbreak was still under control, he added.

- Bernama

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