Malaysia on alert against Ebola
ALL major entry points to Malaysia, including the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, are under an Ebola virus alert as the World Health Organisation (WHO) scrambles to contain the outbreak in West Africa.
Health Minister S. Subramaniam said the government is stepping up preparations to prevent the highly contagious disease from reaching the country.
Instructions have been given to officers at the entry points on what to do to prevent transmission from travellers.
"Preventive measures include identifying and handling passengers with symptoms, immediately alerting the ministry and referring cases to the nearest hospital. The National Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre must also be notified," he said on Sunday.
Similar steps to screen the health of passengers are being taken by airports and airlines around the world, in line with WHO and International Air Transport Association guidelines.
Emirates suspended flights to Guinea as a precautionary measure, the first international airline to do so.
"The ministry has to work closely with all agencies at gateways, such as the Immigration Department and all those screening passengers upon arrival in Malaysia," he said.
He added that the ministry was also working with the foreign ministry to channel information about Ebola to those intending to travel to affected countries, as well as to Malaysians already there.
"Similarly, the education ministry will...advise and screen students returning from these countries," he added.
Dr Subramaniam said the measures were taken when WHO announced that there was an outbreak in Africa in March.
He said the Institute of Medical Research has laboratories which can detect Ebola, and that all government hospitals have facilities to care for those infected.
WHO has warned that the outbreak in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia is moving faster than efforts to control it.
Its director-general, Margaret Chan, said the situation could be catastrophic to human life if the situation continues to deteriorate.
To date, there have been 1,440 confirmed cases in those countries. More than 820 people have died from the disease since February.
Nigerian authorities said yesterday that a doctor in Lagos who treated a Liberian victim of Ebola has contracted the virus.
He treated Liberian government worker Patrick Sawyer who fell sick after flying to Nigeria, sparking fears the disease would spread by air travel.
Ebola is transmitted by direct contact with the body fluids and tissues of those infected. It has a fatality rate of up to 90 per cent. Symptoms include high fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, and kidney and liver failure.
AFP, THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK