PETALING JAYA: An NGO has urged the health ministry to release the post-mortem results of 12 Orang Asli villagers from the measles-hit Kg Kuala Koh in Gua Musang, Kelantan.
At a press briefing, Federation of Private Medical Practitioners’ Associations Malaysia (FPMPAM) president Dr Steven Chow said they had suspicions that measles was not the sole reason for the deaths of the villagers.
“It could be any other infection, any other lung infection that killed these people.”
So far, he said, only the cause of deaths of three villagers had been revealed.
He said in April, FPMPAM carried out medical checks in Kg Kuala Koh and while they found issues of malnutrition and skin infections among the Orang Asli, there were no signs of measles.
“We carried out checks on 140 people, including four of the 15 from the village who subsequently died.”
Chow said the group also carried out tests on the water source in the area and was shocked to find a high level of manganese in the water.
“We discovered that the manganese content was 2,500% higher than the normal amount.”
Following the measles outbreak, an illegal manganese mine nearby was closed but tests by the Chemistry Department ruled out heavy metal or chemical poisoning.
This led to NGOs accusing the department of drawing samples from a different water source, a claim the department denied.
Chow said the government should not rule out the possibility that the villagers could be victims of manganese poisoning as this had long-term effects.
However, he said this did not mean the villagers had died of manganese poisoning but it could have contributed to their ill health.
“This is why we feel the health ministry should conduct tests on the villagers to see if they are suffering from manganese poisoning.
He said the government should be open with all the information.
“That’s very important. It’s a different government now. Show us the post-mortem results. It’s been so long already.”
He also urged Putrajaya to allow NGOs into the area to lend their expertise. The authorities closed off the area last month.