GEORGE TOWN (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysian health inspectors investigating the spread of the hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) in Penang have narrowed it down to the supermarket trolley.
The HFMD virus was found on the handlebars of the trolleys and on child ride equipment in supermarkets.
Last week, the State Health Department directed shopping malls here to sanitise their trolleys, child rides and public benches.
HFMD spreads by contact with nasal discharge, saliva and faeces, and fluids from the blisters of an infected person.
A person infected with HFMD is most contagious during the duration of the illness, with no known treatment available besides relief of symptoms such as fever, sore throat, mouth ulcers, rashes or lethargy.
The disease has been spreading fast among children here, mainly in the island's urban north-east district.
However, the number of new cases reported since last Wednesday has dropped.
State Health Committee chairman Dr Afif Bahardin said the number of cases dropped over three consecutive days.
"We recorded 78 cases on Wednesday, followed by 52 and 51 on Thursday and Friday.
"However, the cumulative number of cases is still high at 2,341 so far this year compared to 1,099 cases in 2017 over the same period," he told a press conference on Monday (July 23).
Dr Afif said 30 premises remained closed since the outbreak early this month, comprising 10 kindergartens, seven nurseries, six primary schools, six preschools and a childcare centre.
The schools still closed are the SK Sungai Bakap, SJKC Sum Min 1, SK Saujana Indah, SJKC Moh Ghee Pusat, SJKC Beng Teik and SJKC Kwang Hwa.
"Nine victims are undergoing treatment in hospitals," he said.
Commenting on claims in social media of HFMD fatalities, Dr Afif told reporters there was no such confirmation yet pending a mortality review by the Health Department.