Four indigenous residents from Poi Poi settlement in Sungai Siput who were admitted at Kuala Kangsar General Hospital for malaria have been discharged after receiving full treatment, and are currently in stable condition according to Perak Department of Orang Asli (JAKAO) director, Hairulnizam Abdul Rahman.

Two other patients, however, are still being treated at the hospital.

“We will be cooperating with the Health Department in monitoring the situation at Pos Kemar in Gerik,” said Hairulnizam.

Recent outbreak caused by different strain of malaria

The spread of malaria was first identified at the Orang Asli settlement in Pos Kemar, Gerik on 21 November.

However, the number of residents falling ill from the infection has since increased, forcing authorities to take measures to curb the spread of infection.

To date, 142 individuals have been reported to be infected with malaria, of which 136 are from Pos Kemar.

“Before this, a malaria case was detected in Pos Kemar and now Pos Poi. Those two cases aren’t related as the victims were infected by different types of parasites,” said Lintang Assemblyman, Datuk Zolkafly Harun.

While the patients of the earlier outbreak in Pos Kemar were tested positive for plasmodium vivax strain, the victims in the recent outbreak at Poi Poi were tested positive for the plasmodium falciparum parasite instead.

Zolkafly added that all outdoor activities should be avoided when near the areas, and reassured that the situation around Poi Poi will continuously be monitored by the Sungai Siput Assemblymen Services Department.

Foreign workers and travelers may carry parasites

The Ministry of Health (MOH) is not dismissing the possibility that the malaria outbreak may be carried by illegal foreign workers from Bangladesh and Indonesia.

However, Senior Principal Assistant Director of the ministry’s Malaria Elimination Programme, Dr Ummi Kalthom said that foreign workers may carry the parasite in their bodies, but transmission of infection requires a vector.

“When we talk about foreigners, we are talking about the presence of parasites and the foreigners might bring the parasite in and if the locality they are around have the anopheles, the mosquitoes from the area might bite the foreigner and then the same mosquito can bite another person from the locality,” Ummi said.

“Bear in mind that the Hulu Perak Health Department has done screening on illegal workers in Pos Kemar and found them negative,” she stressed, highlighting that Malaysian nationals who travel abroad to endemic countries may also be carriers of the parasite.

Efforts to eradicate Malaria shadowed by Zika and dengue

According to Ummi, malaria was successfully curbed in Malaysia from 60,000 cases in 1994 to under 4,000 cases in 2014.

“I believe we need to strengthen our management on introduction. We start to forget about malaria, that's why malaria became a forgotten disease,” she said.

“People are thinking about dengue, about Zika. That's why we need to strengthen our surveillance and of course with the presence of foreigners around and we are going travelling.”

After the first outbreak in November, Perak Health director Datuk Dr Juita Ghazalie announced that medicated mosquito nets were being distributed to villagers to protect them from mosquito bites, in addition to fogging and larvaciding in the area by health authorities.

“We need to really look into how to screen and treat them early, because we cannot get rid of all the anopheles in Malaysia. But we must ensure no local transmission occurs, and that the parasites be contained as soon as possible," said Ummi. MIMS

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