Malaysia’s death toll from the Influenza A(H1N1) has risen to eight with the deaths of a young mother in Sarawak and a woman teacher in Selangor, Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said.

He urged doctors to be alert of patients with flu-like symptoms and severe pneumonia especially high risk individuals such as the obese, pregnant women, diabetics, chronic respiratory cases and those with low immunity.

“In light of the recent spike in A(H1N1) fatalities, two of them involving children, the Health Ministry is emphasising the steps that must be taken by parents, doctors and hospitals to minimise the chances of further deaths,” Liow said in a statement.

He said doctors should start the influenza anti-viral treatment immediately in cases of influenza-like illness among high risks individuals without the need to do confirmation test.

Parents should minimise exposing their children to group activities and avoid contact with those who have the flu, he added.

Liow said the Selangor teacher was admitted to the intensive care unit at the Seremban Hospital yesterday and died the same night.

She had sought treatment from a private clinic on July 27 and at the Sungai Buloh Hospital on July 30.

Meanwhile, Health Director-General Tan Sri Dr Mohd Ismail Merican said, the 23-year-old Sarawak woman, who gave birth two weeks ago, died at the intensive care unit of the Miri Hospital at 4am today after suffering from acute pneumonia.

This is the first Influenza A(H1N1) death in Sarawak.

Dr Mohd Ismail said the victim had given birth at the same hospital on July 21.

“After giving birth, she was found to be suffering from acute pneumonia and was tested positive for the Influenza A(H1N1) on July 23.

“She was feverish and was coughing about four days prior to delivering the baby. Her baby is safe and is confirmed to be free of the Influenza A(H1N1) infection,” he said.

Seventeen new cases were reported today, all of which are local transmissions involving Malaysians.

This brought the number of cases nationwide to 1,446 as at 8am today, with a recovery rate of 97 per cent.

Twenty-nine patients are still receiving antiviral treatments in hospitals while nine others are receiving them in their homes.

He also said that the Health Ministry was still flooded with enquiries on ways to prevent the disease.

Among the steps to be taken, he said, was to avoid crowded places, observe hygiene such as washing hands regularly and covering the mouth when coughing or sneezing.

“The ministry is confident that with the cooperation of all, the Influenza A(H1N1) situation in Malaysia can be contained,” Dr Mohd Ismail said.

At the global level, 183,854 cases were reported in 167 countries so far, with 1,307 deaths.

Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan said there were 110 local transmissions and 25 imported cases so far in the state.

Meanwhile, Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) may temporarily close its campus in Serdang should another Influenza A(H1N1) case is detected, its vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Nik Mustapha R. Abdullah told reporters here.

Last week, UPM was forced to bring forward its mid-semester break after four of its students were tested positive for the virus.

Meanwhile, in JOHOR BAHARU, state executive councillor for women, family, community and health development Dr Robia Kosai said the Sekolah Kebangsaan Taman Kenanga, Tampoi, would not be closed despite the death of one of its pupils due to the virus yesterday.

In KUANTAN, Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Tanjung Lumpur was today closed until Aug 9 after a teacher was tested positive for the virus.

Pahang Education Director Datuk Abdul Aziz Abdul Latif told Bernama when contacted that the students and their parents had been told of the measures they need to take to prevent infection.

“We have asked parents to monitor their children’s health and to take them to the hospital if they develop symptoms of infection such as fever and coughing,” he said.

In KOTA BAHARU, four institutions of higher learning were closed recently due to the pandemic.

State secretary Datuk Mohd Aiseri Alias said the institutions involved were the Universiti of Malaya campus in Nilam Puri, Universiti Malaysia Kelantan, Pasir Mas Nursing College and Islamic Science and Technology College, he told reporters.

— BERNAMA