KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has taken note of the World Health Organisation (WHO) announcement that it would convene an emergency panel meeting this week on the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-(SARS) like virus which has spread beyond China’s borders.
Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye said the decision by world body to call for the meeting reflected the potential seriousness posed by the mystery coronavirus infection which could spread to other countries if appropriate actions were not taken.
Closer to home, Dr Lee said Malaysia was on a high alert and that the ministry would be announcing additional measures taken to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
“The Health Ministry have been screening travellers from Wuhan since the initial reports surfaced.
“We are still keeping track of the ongoing situation including sudden surge in cases that has exceeded 200 in China.
“Some cases include places outside of Wuhan and there are also reports suggesting human-to-human transmission (related to the coronavirus),” he told the New Straits Times.
It was reported that a WHO emergency panel would meet this week to discuss a SARS-like virus and the claimed by a Beijing government expert said Monday is contagious between humans.
AFP reported that the novel coronavirus strain, first discovered in the central city of Wuhan, has caused alarm because of its connection to SARS that killed nearly 650 people across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.
The total number of people diagnosed with the new virus has since risen to 218.
Beijing and Shanghai confirmed their first cases on Monday while more than a dozen others emerged in southern Guangdong province, and 136 new ones were detected over the weekend in Wuhan, the report quoting state broadcaster CCTV, said.
A fourth person died in Wuhan, the local health commission in China had reported.
Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah on Monday announced that response teams at all international entry points and health facilities across the country had been placed on high alert following the outbreak.
He had said that thermal scanner desks and health quarantine centres at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) Health Office have now been placed on a high surveillance mode.
Asked on the parallels to be drawn from the previous SARS that affected Malaysia in 2003, Dr Lee said the coronavirus also spreads like the Influenza virus via droplets from coughing and nasal secretions.
Hence, he said, it was important to prevent patient developing such infection from entering Malaysia.
Dr Lee said he learned that Chinese authorities were screening their travellers on exiting the country to curb the virus from spreading to other nations.
“We on the other hand are screening travellers at entry points.
“If travellers with symptoms are picked up at airport, they will be quarantined and treated immediately.”