Kasnita Mohd Kassim might not have died if the Health Ministry had launched a nation-wide alert to warn the people about the threat of the killer disease meningitis after two UPM student deaths two weeks ago

Media Statement 
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya,  Monday): The Health Ministry ordered a nation-wide meningococcal meningitis alert on Saturday, which was two weeks too late, as first-year UiTM mass communications student Kasnita Mohd Kassim, 29, might have lived if such a nation-wide alert had been issued immediately  after the death of two Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) students in Selangor, Loy Cheah Kee, 23, and D. Thiyagarajah, 23 on June 27 and June 29 respectively about the threat of the silent killer  bacterial disease. 

The death of Kasnita, mother of two, a three-year old son and 18-month daughter, is tragic and avoidable if the Health Ministry had been responsible and prompt  in launching a national awareness campaign about the silent killer disease, as her husband Danie Manja Abdul Bahri said she did not show any symptoms of serious illness until the last 48 hours of her life. 

Kasnita had complained of a headache and feeling feverish when she returned to her Shah Alam home from class at UiTM on Wednesday afternoon and she took two paracetemol tablets.  Her fever became worse on Thursday and she vomited continuously later that night. 

As Danie told reporters: “It did not cross my mind that it was serious because, although she was sick, she could still joke with our two children and me.” 

Kasnita suddenly had a muscle spasm when she  was breastfeeding her daughter and never regained consciousness, and died of meningitis two hours later after she was rushed and admitted to the Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital in Klang. She died of meningoencephalitis, or brain inflammation, which is a meningitis variant. 

After the death of the two UPM students  Loy Cheah Kee and Thiyagarajah from meningitis at the end of last month, the Health Ministry had been negligent in not immediately launching a nation-wide alert to make all Malaysians aware of the threat of the killer disease, for if Kasnita and Danie had been aware of the deadly  meningitis outbreak and had sought immediate medical treatment, Kasnita would still be alive today. 

The Health Minister, Datuk Chua Jui Meng should explain why the Health Ministry issued a nation-wide meningococcal meningitis alert only after three deaths in two weeks.  

In fact, there had been two earlier deaths because of meningitis in March this year – two primary school pupils in Kuching – and the people had been kept mostly in the dark instead of being fully informed about the silent killer disease. Chua should explain why Parliament was never informed about the two meningitis deaths in Kuching in March although Parliament was sitting in March and April. 

A  week ago, I had called on Chua and the Education Minister, Tan Sri Musa Mohamad to explain why there was a cover-up of the deaths of two UPM students  last month from or linked to  meningitis until they were  unearthed by Malaysiakini in a remarkable piece of exclusive journalism  on 8th July.

The death of two UPM students should have been made public at the first available opportunity  to give UPM students accurate information as well as alert the people  about the  deaths and outbreak of the infectious disease, but  for two weeks (even after the newsbreak), the UPM authorities failed to issue a full statement to the UPM undergraduates, leaving them to learn about the deaths and the killer disease through the campus grapevine.

The UPM authorities only managed to inform the UPM students about the disease on Saturday by way of a broadcast over Radio Malaysia Selangor from Bukit Ekspo, where a UPM campus fest was being held  to mark the UPM convocation.

It is most unfortunate that there had been no further meningitis casualties from the UPM student population, or the  UPM authorities would have a lot of explanation to do for its atrocious failure both in communications as well as in protecting the best welfare of the undergraduates.

The Health Minister owes the nation a full and no holds-barred statement to explain the  meningitis outbreak, tracing back to the two primary school pupils in Kuching who died of the disease in March this year.       


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman