PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia: More than 140,000 Malaysians could have been infected with influenza A (H1N1).
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said this was based on the number of confirmed cases reported by the ministry since May.
"We have more than 7,000 confirmed cases. To determine the number of cases in the community, the number of confirmed cases is multiplied by 20," he told media editors and reporters in a two-hour dialogue on the influenza A (H1N1) situation in Malaysia.
The meeting was also to get feedback from the media on the problems they encountered, the complaints received from the public and what was happening on the ground.
He said there were thousands of Malaysians infected with the disease but the majority recovered while some in the vulnerable group suffered complications and needed to be hospitalised.
Expressing sadness at the 69 deaths so far, he said 70 per cent of those who died had co-morbid conditions such as heart disease, hypertension and low-immunity while 27 per cent came late for treatment.
"We also had many people who suffered co-morbid conditions, confirmed positive for influenza A (H1N1) but returned home well after being treated in hospitals."
He cited a case where an elderly man confirmed positive had to be in ICU for 25 days but recovered and returned home.
Liow also rapped some general practitioners for not adhering to the ministry's guidelines on who to treat with the anti-viral drug, Tamiflu, also known as Oseltamivir, which resulted in some victims dying.
Citing the latest death reported, he said, a 38-year-old teacher had sought treatment at a private clinic on Aug 13 for fever and cough which she had for two days.
"The rapid test done revealed that she was positive for influenza A but the doctor just treated her with medication for her cough and fever without prescribing Tamiflu despite her being obese and falling in the vulnerable category."
Five days later, he added, the teacher suffered breathing difficulty and cyanosis (a blue discolouration of the skin and mucous membranes) and initially sought treatment at a private hospital before being transferred to Kuala Lumpur Hospital.
He said a throat swab was done on Aug 18 before the teacher was put on Tamiflu but her condition worsened and she died the following day due to pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome. She was confirmed positive on Aug 20.
"If the general practitioner had strictly adhered to our guidelines and put her on Tamiflu, she may not have died," said Liow, adding he would meet doctors in the private sector this week to discuss the issue. -NST