H1N1 outbreak in Sabah not serious despite school closure, says minister

A pupil at SK Stella Maris in Tanjung Aru, Kota Kinabalu, wears a face mask amid fears of an influenza A (H1N1) outbreak.

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Health and People’s Wellbeing Minister Frankie Poon has given the assurance that the influenza A (H1N1) outbreak in Sabah is not serious despite a school having to close after six pupils tested positive.

Poon said the pupils, aged below 12, from SK Stella Maris in Tanjung Aru here, have all been sent home to get some rest.

“But this is not a serious issue. As I have said before there are many steps that can be taken (to stop the virus from spreading)… this (school closure) is one of them.

“This is just another common flu. Unless a person has a serious illness or other medical issues, then it may complicate his condition.

“If your health is normal then there is no issue, you will just go through it,” he said to reporters after attending the presentation of lion heads to Chinese association leaders at the state administrative building here today.

Earlier, photos of a notice from the city’s health department stating that SK Stella Maris would be closed for a week from 8am tomorrow until Jan 28 made the rounds on social media.

Poon said it was unnecessary to shut down the school but it was a decision taken by the city’s health department.

The SK Stella Maris school will close for a week from 8am tomorrow.

“There are many ways that could be taken to handle this situation, for example, just sending the six pupils back home.

“Action was taken by the person in charge – they chose to do it this way – but we have no issues with that,” he said, adding the move was intended to contain the virus from spreading further.

He said he had yet to receive information on the pupils’ travel history, adding that there were no plans to put the children’s families under quarantine for now.

On the influenza vaccine, he assured that fresh supplies would arrive in the state soon.

“Don’t worry – even today it is coming. This is a seasonal thing and suddenly everyone wants it but for sure (vaccines will arrive),” he said.

Meanwhile, Sabah health director Dr Christina Rundi said she was made to understand that there was pressure from the school’s Parents and Teachers’ Association (PIBG) to shut down the school.

“But actually there is no need to close the school – we only close schools if it’s a source of the infection.

“In this case, the decision was made by the district health department. In the future, we will look at the criteria that warrant a closure before closing any school,” she said.