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Make Rotavirus Vaccination A Must

Posted on 20 February 2012 - 09:15pm Last updated on 21 February 2012 - 11:27am
Pauline Wong newsdesk@thesundaily.com

PETALING JAYA (Feb 20, 2012): Paediatricians are urging the Health Ministry to make vaccination against the deadly rotavirus compulsory under the national immunisation programme.
In light of an outbreak of acute gastroenteritis (AGE) associated with the rotavirus in Perak last week, these doctors want the ministry to include the vaccines in the national vaccination schedule, in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations. Academy of Medicine of Malaysia College of Paediatrics president Prof Lee Way Seah and Asia-Pacific Paediatric Association president-elect Datuk Dr Zulkifli Ismail in a joint letter today said two vaccines have been made available in Malaysia since 2009. "Both vaccines have been found to be highly effective and safe in the prevention of rotavirus infection in infants," they said. "We urge the government to consider including rotavirus vaccine as part of our national immunisation programme for Malaysian children," they added. Rotavirus, which is named for its pinwheel-like appearance, is a fatal virus which causes diarrhoea, vomiting, severe dehydration and fever. It is related to almost 50% of all childhood AGE cases; and AGE is the second leading cause of death among children under five years old. According to WHO, some 10 million young children die from AGE annually.

Locally, the recent outbreak of AGE in Perak, which began on Jan 27, has thus far resulted in the deaths of two infants aged two and 10 months, due to suspected rotavirus infection. So far, a total of 3,823 cases of AGE have been reported in Hilir Perak and Batang Padang, but the cause of the outbreak is still undetermined. Pantai Medical Centre consulting paediatrician Dr Chai Pei Fan said looking at the facts and figures of rotavirus infections, it is imperative that the government look into making the two vaccines mandatory. "WHO figures show that between 400,000 and 700,000 deaths annually are related to rotavirus," he told a media briefing here today. He said a 2004 study based on Health Ministry data showed that 1 in 37 children have been treated as outpatients due to rotavirus, 1 in 61 hospitalised and 1 in 15,000 die from it. Chai said the study also showed that 30% of AGE-related hospitalisations in Malaysia is due to rotavirus infections. "However, there is no antiviral treatment for rotavirus. Treatment is usually focused on oral rehydration solutions as most deaths from rotavirus is due to severe dehydration and organ failure and probiotics, to reduce the symptoms of vomiting and diarrhoea," he said. The virus is also extremely resilient, staying on surfaces for up to 10 days, and resistant towards ordinary hand soaps or mild disinfectants. "The best ways to prevent rotavirus infection is to use alcohol-based disinfectants to clean surfaces which the child comes in contact with, as well as to ensure hygiene, as the virus is transmitted through hand-to-mouth contact with contaminated surfaces," he said.


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