In response to various inquiries about the influenza situation in Malaysia, the WHO National Influenza Centre in the Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya is releasing the following information.

In the last few weeks, there has been a significant increase in respiratory illnesses in the country. Fear has been expressed that this may be due to a new strain of influenza in the light of reports of severe influenza outbreaks in China, Hong Kong and Japan.

The WHO Influenza Centre has been monitoring the influenza situation closely. In December 1998, five influenza A strains were isolated from children with respiratory disease. All the strains were found to be closely related to the H3N2 influenza A strain. In January 1999, another five strains were isolated, of which 3 were influenza A (H3N2) and two were influenza B.

The influenza season in Malaysia usually shows an increase in December-January, corresponding to the monsoon season. The influenza viruses identified by the WHO Centre here are similar antigenically to virus isolates from previous years and to strains circulating in the Southeast Asian region. The World Health Organization has recommended that the 1998/1999 vaccine composition should contain an A/Sydney/5/97 (H3N2) strain, an A/Beijing/262/95 (H1N1) strain, and B/Beijing/184/93 strain. This vaccine should be protective against the influenza A and B viruses circulating in Malaysia during the current influenza season. The Ministry of Health has recommended that senior citizens, Haj pilgrims over 60 years old, those with chronic diseases, including children with asthma and travelers to countries experiencing cold climates.

Prof. Lam Sai Kit


WHO National Influenza Centre


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