Increase in asthma, conjunctivitis cases due to haze, says health ministry

Sales of masks have gone up since the haze worsened.

KUALA LUMPUR: The worsening haze situation has led to a sharp increase in asthma and conjunctivitis cases nationwide based on checks at 31 sentinel clinics, said health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

He said asthma cases experienced a 15.8% increase from 1,187 to 1,375 cases between Sept 8 and 14, compared with the period between June 30 and Sept 7 this year.

Conjunctivitis cases rose by 24.9% from 253 to 317 cases over the same period, he said in a statement here today.

“Those at high risk of contracting the diseases, such as children, the elderly, smokers and those with constant exposure to outdoor environment, are advised to take preventive steps to reduce the risks from the haze.”

Noor Hisham also urged the public to reduce physical activities outdoors, wear face masks and postpone any outdoor activities if the air pollutant index (API) readings exceed 100, in line with the advice of the National Haze Action Plan.

An API between zero and 50 indicates good air quality; 51 and 100, moderate; 101 and 200, unhealthy; 201 and 300, very unhealthy and 300 and above, hazardous.

“Keep the windows constantly closed so as to prevent the haze from entering homes or buildings, and turn on air-conditioners and air filters, which can trap fine particles and prevent polluted air from getting in,” he added.