by Dr Tan Seng Giaw, DAP National Vice-Chairman and MP for Kepong 
on 17.7.200
in Kuala Lumpur

We call on the Health Ministry to announce the proper measures including the identification of the source to overcome the meningitis scare at Universiti Putra Malaysia

Infectious diseases such as meningitis evoke fear among people. The death of Thiyagarajan (23) was followed by Loy Cheah Kee (23) also from UPM two days later and Kasnita Mohd Kassim (27) from Universiti Teknologi Mara, UiTM, on 1 July, 2002. This results in panic.

The Health Ministry has denied a report that four more UPM students were admitted to Kajang Hospital. We have yet to know what caused the death of Loy and Kasnita.

There have been conflicting statements, including Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, UTM, Vice-Chancellor Datuk Professor Dr Mohd Zulkifli Mohd Ghazali encouraging staff and students to be vaccinated against meningitis. But, the Vice-Chancellor has not said what type of vaccine will give protection. Bacteria that cause meningitis include Haemophilus, Pneumococcus and Meningococcus.


There are not many cases of meningococcal meningitis. Children may have Pneumococcus or Haemophilus. Those who go the Mecca to perform the Haj are said to have meningococcal vaccination. But, what type of strains of meningococcus are found in Mecca? Do they have any protection?

The Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng said: "Let the health authorities do their work and there is no need for anyone to be alarmed." Then, UPM Corporate Communications and International Relations officer Mohd Rusdy Hasan announced that there was a directive saying that all statements regarding meningococcal meningitis would be issued by the Health Ministry effective from 16 July, 2002.


Granted that there should not be conflicting statements. Datuk Chua should be transparent, giving us the details of the source and the contacts of the confirmed case and the measures taken. What are these effective and appropriate measures?

Only 20 days after the death of Thiyagarajan, the director-general of health Tan Sri Dr Mohamad Taha Arif came up with a reasonable statement.

He commented: "It must be remembered that meningococcal meningitits is caused by various strains of Neisseria meningitides and thus there are different vaccines available."

"The only confirmed case of meningitis was caused by Neisseria meningitidis serotype A and though the vaccine is available , current international practices do not recommend mass vaccination," he added.

When the Health Ministry issues statements, we hope that it will reveal the truth. We cannot forget the confusing statements by the ministry during the Nippah encephalitis virus epidemic including the purchase of vaccines against Japanese encephalitis. Hitherto, we do not know the source of the virus. The first case of death was reported in Tambun, Perak. We have heard that bats that perch in Pulau Teoman brought the virus to Tambun, Perak. As the virus was identified from samples taken in Nippah, Negeri Sembilan, it has been named Nippah.

After over two years, the ministry has not come out with a full report of the Nippah epidemic. Now, it will monopolize all statements concerning meningitis. Can we be certain that it will be accountable and transparent?