(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.