Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Has the media been 'advised' not to cover Leptospirosis outbreak in Juru Detention except...that the sick are getting better?

Leptospirosis outbreak in Malaysian Detention Centre for undocumented migrants shocked 123 civil society groups from all over the world, that issued a joint statement on 23/5/2009. - And, of course Malaysian media did not carry the statement.

The statement was also handed over to SUHAKAM on 25/5/2009, and the media was informed about this - and again the media did not carry this event.

The statement with the additional 10 names, was again re-issued on 26/5/2009, and again the Malaysian media did not carry it.

Today(27/5/2009), a group of Malaysian NGOs will be submitting another memorandum about the Leptospirosis outbreak to SUHAKAM - I hope the media carries this story...

We would not have known about this if not for the Star news paper had not highlighted the matter, and told us about the outbreak and the subsequent 2 deaths. Thank you STAR...

But alas, this outbreak and deaths that infuriated people from across the globe, was just not covered by the local media - only the National News Agency seem to have those reports (which can only be accessed online). Sadly, the print media was no more interested (or were they just 'advised' not to cover the story).

Malaysia, sadly, has a habit of 'covering up' diseases and deaths caused by disease, industrial accidents, and police action.

Why? To protect and propagate a clean beautiful image of the country t0 attract tourist...or just to hide failings of government from its people. Outbreaks of dengue and deaths have also been many a time not reported.

This time, the death by reason of Leptospirosis, may have been reported because there was much hue and cry about that A(H1N1) flu,. and suddenly our reporters, as it was the in thing, started reporting of disease outbreaks - Leptospirosis, Meningitis, (1 died,) respiratory tract infections, etc..

The public has a right to know the truth...and the journalist and media companies have a duty and a obligation to not merely report the truth and facts - but also to do a bit of analysis as to the causes, and the persons responsible...

Follow-up news about the Leptospirosis seem to be just about numbers of persons getting better..

What brought about the outbreak? Who will be responsible for the neglect that resulted in death and sufferings? Most importantly, what will be the measures taken to prevent similar outbreaks and deaths in places of detention in Malaysia? - But alas, Malaysia's mainstream media is just not interested...(or have they been 'advised' by the government not to, for after all permits need to be re-applied every year, and in 1987 Star lost its permit for about 2 months because of the truth they published...)

It is interesting that all the rest recovered and are fine - and that makes one wonder , or rather believe, that the 2 Burmese migrants would not have died if they had speedier access to healthcare. [Remember, this is, most likely, not a disease they contracted before detention, as they have been in Detention for some time - "..Sa La Hin, 26, who had been detained in the camp since January..."

The symptoms would have manifested much earlier - and the question is when were those who died sent to hospital. When did the detaining authority detect the symptoms, and what did they do....

A collection of news reports, is attached below... (see also earlier posts, including:-

10 more join 113 in global concern about healthcare in Malaysia's detention places - 2 deaths Leptospirosis

What is the media interested in these days? Issues of farmers, migrants, detainees, etc.. are all not getting covered...

2nd Burmese dies in ' unhygienic' Malaysian Detention Centres - Leptospirosis

Now migrants are dying in Detention Centres because of diseases transmitted by 'animal urine contaminated water'...
The Health Ministry announced today that the Leptospirosis outbreak in the Juru Detention Camp, Bukit Mertajam, Penang is now stable and under control.

Health Director-General Tan Sri Dr Mohd Ismail Merican said no new cases have been reported.

"Until 8am today, the number of Leptospirosis cases being treated at the hospital remains at seven. All six cases treated at the Bukit Mertajam Hospital isolation ward and a case treated at the Seberang Jaya Hospital's intensive care unit (ICU) have been shifted to normal wards," he said in a statement here. - Bernama, 24/5/2009, Leptospirosis Cases In Juru Reported Stable

And, on 23/5/2009, the Star reported:-

Two Leptospirosis patients, treated at the isolation ward of Bukit Mertajam Hospital, Penang were discharged Saturday, said Director General of Health Tan Sri Dr Mohd Ismail Merican.

He said the remaining seven Leptospirosis patients from the Immigration detention centre at Juru, Bukit Mertajam were in stable condition and that the situation was under control.

"Six patients are being treated at the isolation ward of Bukit Mertajam Hospital (one was transferred from ICU Friday) and another is treated at the ICU ward of Seberang Jaya Hospital," he said in a statement here Saturday. - Star, 23/5/2009, Two Leptospirosis patients discharged from hospital

And, on 20/5/2009, Bernama report

One of nine Leptospirosis patients under treatment at two hospitals in Seberang Prai, Penang is still in critical condition.

Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Mohd Ismail Merican said the patient was treated at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of Seberang Jaya Hospital.

"Eight patients are being treated at Bukit Mertajam Hospital, one in ICU ward and seven in isolation ward. They are in stable condition," he said in a statement here Wednesday.Bernama, 20/5/2009, Leptospirosis Patient Still Critical
19/5/2009 - Star Report
A second Myanmar illegal immigrant in the Juru detention camp in Central Seberang Prai here has died of Leptospirosis.

Immigration Department director-general Abdul Rahman Othman said that the immigrant, Sa La Hin, 26, who had been detained in the camp since January, succumbed to the contagious bacterial disease late Sunday at the Bukit Mertajam Hospital.

Last Tuesday, Myanmar detainee Thang Hoih Ping, 21, died of the disease in the same hospital following an outbreak in the camp.

Abdul Rahman said that as at 11am Tuesday, 24 detainees were still warded, including one in the Seberang Jaya Hospitals intensive care unit.

Of the 24 detainees, 22 are Myanmar nationals and two are Bangladeshis.

Deeply concerned over the situation, Abdul Rahman ordered all migrant detention camps in the country to increase hygiene standards and cleanliness levels, including the preparation of food and drinks.

“We have yet to obtain an official report from the Health department on the two deaths as well as the actual cause of the outbreak.

“However, we have taken precautionary measures by stationing a medical team on daily shift duty at the Juru camp to closely monitor the situation,” he said.

Not ruling out the possibility that the disease could have been transmitted from the immigrants, Abdul Rahman said that according to standard operating procedures, a medical officer usually visited the camp once a week.

However, since the outbreak, the department had opened the doors of its detention camps nationwide for health officials to come in and provide necessary medical assistance, he said.

He also said the Juru camp’s catering tender might be reviewed if the cause of the outbreak pointed to contamination of its food and drinks.

Abdul Rahman, however, discarded over-crowding as among the reasons for the widespread of the disease, noting that the Juru detention camp merely had an additional 53 detainees compared to its 500 detainee-capacity.

He also sought the co-operation of the Myanmar embassy, to help contact the next-of-kin of the two deceased detainees to enable their bodies to be sent back immediately. - Star, 19/5/2009, Leptospirosis kills 2nd Myanmar illegal immigrant (Update)

15/5/2009 - Star Report
A 21-year-old Myanmar illegal immigrant from the Juru Detention Camp died of leptospirosis in Bukit Mertajam Hospital on Tuesday.

Twenty-four people were admitted at the Bukit Mertajam Hospital and another two at the Seberang Jaya Hospital, said State Health, Welfare and Caring Society Committee member Phee Boon Poh on Friday.

Leptospirosis is a rare, severe, and contagious bacterial infection caused by exposure to the bacteria which can be found in fresh water contaminated by animal urine. It occurs in warm climates.

The statement said that the Myanmar immigrant was hospitalised on May 7 suffering from fever, lethargy and other symptoms consistent with Leptospirosis.

More cases emerged and the affected people hospitalised.

The statement said that the camp has been disinfected including bathrooms and toilets.

Samples have been taken from all water sources, including all water tanks and sources of drinking waters for evidence of the bacterial contamination.

All inmates were being monitored daily, the statement said. - Star, 15/5/2009, Leptosprosis kills Myanmar immigrant; 26 hospitalised

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