800 screened for MERS in Malaysia since 2013

PETALING JAYA - Some 800 people were monitored by the Health Ministry for Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) since November 2013, most of whom had just returned after performing their haj.

These people, he said, were put under the ministry's list of Patients Under Investigation.

"However, only one person tested positive last April," said Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah in a statement.

The man, who had come back from performing his umrah, later died of multi-organ failure.

This case, said Dr Noor Hisham, had "tested" the ministry's response, included a surveillance system and infectious disease report, the broadening of laboratory capacities and the implementation of infection prevention and control in all local health facilities.

"The experience proves that the system we have put in place is capable of containing the first detected case of MERS-CoV," he said.

Dr Noor Hisham said health screenings were also being carried out at international entry points and assured the public not to worry.

On June 7, Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya advised Malaysians against travelling to South Korea following an outbreak of MERS-Cov there.

At press time, it was reported that eight MERS-CoV patients out of 64 cases in South Korea had died.

Besides South Korea, MERS-CoV cases have been reported in over 20 countries as at this month, including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and even China.

Dr Noor Hisham said according to the World Health Organisation, the current outbreak in South Korea might have been due to "failing to ensure that preventive and control measures were effectively implemented at all levels of medical and health care."

Although there were no restrictions against travelling to South Korea, Dr Noor Hisham warned visitors as well as umrah and haj pilgrims to practise good hygiene.

"They are also advised not to visit farms, especially camel farms," he said.