Malaysia to monitor those who returned with man who died of MERS

PHOTO: Malaysia to monitor those who returned with man who died of MERS

KUALA LUMPUR - The Health Ministry will continue to monitor the group that returned from Mecca with a 54-year-old man dying of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-coronavirus (MERS-CoV) last week.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said they would be under observation for the next two weeks although they had all tested negative for the deadly SARS-like virus.

"We are looking at those who were in close contact with the deceased, which is the group he travelled with and his family," he told reporters yesterday.

The victim, who was from Batu Pahat, returned to Malaysia on March 29 after performing the umrah.

He was admitted to hospital for three days following complaints of fever, cough and breathing difficulties. He died on April 13.

On reports that the virus might have been transmitted from the camels at the farms in the Middle East, Dr Subramaniam said there were theories over this, but these had yet to be proven.

On its website, the World Health Organisation said the Malaysian, who had "underlying health conditions", had visited a camel farm on March 26 during his trip and had consumed camel's milk.

"This is the first case with MERS-CoV infection in the country," it said.

"The Health Ministry reported that so far no human-to-human transmission has been observed amongst close contacts and in health-care facilities in Malaysia."

Dr Subramaniam said airports would continue to scan the body temperature of all those entering the country.

"Ever since the SARS outbreak, we have put in place a scanner to check the body temperature of all visitors at our airports," he said.

However, Dr Subramaniam said in the case of the Malaysian man, his symptoms started about 10 days after returning from Mecca.

He urged travellers to the Middle East to maintain good hygiene, wear masks at high-risk areas and not to visit animal farms. He said they should also not consume raw or unclean food and water.

He advised those who developed respiratory complications with fever, cough, cold and throat infections to cover their mouth and nose, and seek medical attention immediately.

Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, in a statement, said there had not been any positive samples of MERS-CoV among the 31 taken from the "close contacts" of the deceased.