PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Except for Sarawak, the other 12 Malaysian states have all shown a rise in the number of cases of the hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD), as the Health Ministry held a meeting with other agencies to curb its spread.
From Jan 1 until July 23 this year, a total of 35,886 HFMD cases were reported nationwide, Health Ministry director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a statement on Tuesday (July 24).
There was a 64.2 per cent increase in the number of HFMD cases for the week of July 15 compared to the previous week of July 8, he said.
Dr Noor Hisham added that 469 premises nationwide had been closed, including 217 nurseries, 223 kindergartens, a few classes from 27 schools. One school each in Penang and Pahang were shut completely for now.
The meeting last Thursday (July 19) was attended by representatives from different agencies that were involved in monitoring nurseries, kindergartens and primary schools, he said.
Dr Noor Hisham said the Education Ministry, Social Welfare Department, National Unity and Integration Department, and the Housing and Local Government Ministry had agreed to work together with the Health Ministry to resolve the matter.
Measures to be taken included organising awareness campaigns, ensuring clean environments and disinfecting the environment after school or daycare sessions.
"The suggestion to provide hand sanitisers in such places will be looked into and discussed more in terms of its implementation," he said.
The government is also granting quarantine leave for civil servants whose children have HFMD.
Dr Noor Hisham said representatives from the Malaysian Employers Federation, who attended the meeting, would look into the legal implications of having such measures implemented by the private sector as well.
In Penang, the Sunshine Square supermarket in Bayan Baru is disinfecting its trolleys with two different concoctions to keep the HFMD in check.
Besides using diluted bleach to sanitise the 300 trolleys as advised by the state Health Department, the supermarket is also cleaning them for a second time with a multi-purpose cleaner.
"Ever since we found out that HFMD has been spread through the handlebars of trolleys, we have been cleaning the trolleys daily instead of weekly.
"Although the state Health Department said it was just the handlebars and child seats, we feel that the whole trolley should be disinfected.
Penangn's Health Department last week directed shopping malls in the state to sanitise their trolleys, child rides and public benches after the HFMD virus was found on the handlebars of the trolleys and on child ride equipment.
HFMD spreads through contact with nasal discharge, saliva and faeces, as well as 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 and lethargy.