Malnourished Orang Asli toddler dies of measles in Kg Kuala Koh

Orang Asli from the Batek tribe in Kampung Kuala Koh await treatment at the Gua Musang hospital. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: An Orang Asli toddler from Kampung Kuala Koh in Gua Musang, Kelantan, has died of severe malnutrition, Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad said today.

The two-and-a-half-year-old boy was the latest casualty from the pneumonia-hit village which Dzulkefly confirmed today is suffering from a breakout of measles.

Pneumonia is a complication of measles.

The toddler weighed only 7kg at death, just over half the average weight of a child that age.

Three deaths from the village have been confirmed, with another 12 reported to have died en route to Gua Musang from Taman Negara in Pahang.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department P Waytha Moorthy previously said the 12 were believed to have died during the journey and been buried along the way.

In a press conference today, Dzulkefly provided an update on the issue, adding that the Gua Musang hospital has received the 12 bodies for post-mortems.

As of June 15, he said, 112 cases had been reported to the health ministry.

“A contributing factor to the spread of measles in the village is the low measles immunity coverage, with only 61.5% having received their first dose of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and only 30% having received their second dose.”

He added that the nomadic lifestyle of the Orang Asli made it challenging to provide them with health services.

“The lack of nutrition also contributes to the risk of infection and complications,” he said.

A total of 51 people remain hospitalised with about 92% of the 185 villagers having undergone health checks so far.

Dzulkefly said measles is a virus which spreads easily, and that a single person with measles can infect up to 18 others.

The virus can be spread through the air or through direct contact with virus-infected fluid.

Symptoms include a fever, cough, cold, or conjunctivitis, followed by rashes for several days.

Babies, children, those with malnutrition and low immunity are the most susceptible.

Dzulkefly said health officials are still carrying out checks in the village to detect cases, providing children with Vitamin A to boost their immunity, and carrying out immunisation of villagers among other efforts.

“The ministry has also instructed other states to increase surveillance of measles and immunisation coverage among the Orang Asli in their states.”

In the meantime, he said, the police would monitor and control the entry of members of the public and NGOs to Kampung Kuala Koh to prevent the spread of the virus.