GUA MUSANG: The authorities have been urged to urgently investigate the river water that supplies the daily needs of the Orang Asli at Kampung Kuala Koh here.
Paloh assemblyman Amran Ariffin believed the water had become polluted with chemicals from iron ore mining activities nearby and could be linked to lung infection among the Orang Asli.
Fourteen Orang Asli are reported to have died from this respiratory disease over the past month. The latest case involved a person who died at Hospital Raja Perempuan Zainab II in Kota Bharu this morning.
Amran said 119 residents had sought treatment at Hospital Gua Musang (HGM) and six, in a critical state, were sent to Hospital Kuala Krai (HKK).
“We hope fast action will be taken to prevent more Orang Asli falling sick,” he said after visiting the sick Orang Asli at the hospital here.
Amran said 33 Orang Asli, including seven men, 10 women and 16 children, were receiving treatment at the hospital now and their condition was described as stable.
He said many others received out-patient treatment at Klinik Aring 1, Klinik Kesihatan Chiku 3 and the hospital here.
“I hope the Orang Asli don’t simply blame anybody for their sickness and hope a solution is found for the problems they are facing now.”
What is important is for the authorities to swiftly investigate the cause of the sickness and prevent the infection from spreading, he added.
Earlier, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department P Waytha Moorthy said 12 of the deaths, caused by pneumonia, occurred in Taman Negara, near the Kelantan-Pahang. As such, he asked the Pahang health authorities to check for any increase in pneumonia cases among its Orang Asli population as it was contagious.
He said the Orang Asli buried the dead during their nomadic travels.
He said the health ministry has set up a task force to coordinate efforts between various government agencies to control the spread of the infection among the Orang Asli.
Meanwhile, Kelantan health director Dr Zaini Hussin said his department wanted to restrict contact between the Orang Asli community in Kampung Kuala Koh and outsiders to curtail the spread of pneumonia infections as it can be transmitted through respiration.
He said if any party wanted to offer their assistance, they could get in touch with the Orang Asli Development Department (Jabatan Kemajuan Orang Asli or Jakoa) directly.
“There is no need to isolate the residents in the village from others but the department will monitor the village every two days.
“The village has 186 people and 83 of them have been or are being treated. We found the rest to be healthy,” he said.
Commenting on speculation that the disease could be related to the fungal skin infection experienced by some of the Orang Asli, Zaini said this was unlikely as the period between the two cases was too long.
He said the present cases are clearly pneumonia and have nothing to do with the skin disease before.
He said yesterday, a medical team found 24 new cases with fever and cough symptoms in the village. These patients were brought to the Chiku 3 Health Clinic for further treatment.
He said health teams were tracking the disease contact points to control the outbreak.