By Jumiati Rosly
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 11 (Bernama) -- The influenza A (H1N1) pandemic caused panic worldwide this year, and Malaysia was no exception.
Setting the National Influenza Pandemic Preparation Plan in motion, the health ministry launched a big campaign to create public awareness of H1N1 and impart preventive measures to check its spread.
H1N1 was first detected in April in Mexico, forcing the government to shut down public buildings and public places.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported 622,482 positive cases of H1N1, with 7,826 deaths globally, until Nov 22.
Malaysia recorded 77 H1N1-related deaths.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced that the government would increase the anti-viral stock via a RM20 million allocation.
To avoid panic, the health ministry plans to switch to seasonal influenza vaccines which contain H1N1 vaccine by February/March to protect against influenza-like diseases.
Malaysia has ordered 400,000 doses of H1N1 vaccines worth RM14 million, to be received in stages for high risk groups like pregnant women and 18-60 year-olds with chronic diseases, while 200,000 had been set aside for frontline medical staff.
The education ministry has allocated RM10 million for preventive equipments like thermometres, sanitisers, nose and mouth masks to students and school staff.
H1N1 was also a big worry for Malaysian haj pilgrims where 26,000 were given seasonal influenza vaccination as prevention.
In February, the health ministry declared war on dengue fever and although statistics for November showed a drop, it was dissatisfied as most cases were detected late. Only 35 per cent were detected early.
Statistics for November showed there were 34,975 dengue cases with 75 deaths, a drop from the 38,995 cases and 84 deaths for the corresponding period last year.
Some 13,895 premises were slapped with compound fines amounting to RM2.6 million for breeding aedes mosquitoes, owners of 13,230 premises were warned and 50 owners of other premises taken to court.
The proposed privatisation of the National Heart Institute (IJN) by Sime Darby Bhd which wanted to take over a 51 per cent stake was another hot topic.
It was shelved by the Cabinet, following protests from various quarters.
The government assured that IJN would not be sold or privatised as long as there was no other alternative for the people to receive heart treatment.
The health ministry also announced that the human papillomavirus immunisation programme to prevent cervical cancer in 300,000 girls aged 13, would be implemented next year.
The immunisation programme costing RM150 million annually, was approved by the Cabinet.
The vaccine would be more effective to prevent cervical cancer among teenagers as compared to adults over 40 years of age.
Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among women after breast cancer.