Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sarawak To Get Its Own H1N1 Test Lab Next Month

KUCHING, Aug 21 (Bernama) -- Sarawak will get its own test laboratory by the middle of next month to enable the Sarawak General Hospital (SGH) to conduct tests for Influenza A(H1N1).

Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan said Friday the lab would speed up the Influenza A(H1N1) tests without having to send the samples to the Institute for Medical Research (IMR) in Kuala Lumpur or the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Sabah.

"Four medical staff are undergoing training (to conduct tests) while some of the equipment are here and a few more are to be bought. We think that by mid-September we should be able to test our own samples," he told reporters at the state Health Department here.

Previously, swab specimens from suspected Influenza A(H1N1) patients were sent to the IMR and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital where results are usually known in 24 hours but because of the backlog of cases, results take much longer.

Dr Chan, who is also the state Disaster Relief Committee chairman, urged the people to brace for the peaking of Influenza A(H1N1), signalling that the worse is yet to come.

"We believe that the flu has not reached its peak in the state. We hope it would peak soon. The sooner it peaks the better so the transmission rate will come down," he said.

He added that the number of people seeking treatment for influenza-like-illness(ILI) as well as those needing admission in the state continued to increase.

He said that in mid-July this year around 0.5 per cent of total outpatient attendances in government clinics showed ILI but one month later the figure had increased to 5.5 per cent in mid-August.

"The number of clusters occurring in schools, higher learning institutions and childcare centres in Kuching, Sibu and Miri has declined dramatically since its peak in the first week of August," he said.

He advised pregnant women to take precautions to avoid getting infected because half of the six deaths reported in the state were related to pregnancy.

"Pregnant mothers should avoid crowded places, observe strict personal hygiene, especially hand washing, use face masks and seek early treatment if you have signs and symptoms of flu," he said. --BERNAMA.

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