Sabah beefs up screening on foreigners for bird flu

“Humans can only get the virus from birds, including chickens," said Malaysian Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam.

KOTA KINABALU - Health officials are screening all foreign arrivals at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport even as the authorities assure the public that the H7N9 virus cannot be transmitted through humans.

Urging the public not to panic following the first case of H7N9 reported in the country, state Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said the virus could not be transmitted through humans.

"Humans can only get the virus from birds, including chickens. Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam had earlier stated that the possibility of human-to-human transmission is remote.

"In this case, the source is in China, not from the Chinese visitor who was in Sandakan before coming to Kota Kinabalu," he said, adding that the public should be more worried about going to China.

Masidi also asked the public to stop speculating about the case as this would only create panic.

The Avian Influenza A was detected on Feb 11 in a 67-year-old female Chinese tourist, who is currently warded at a private hospital in Malaysia.

On Thursday, state Health Depart-ment director Dr Christina Rundi had said that checks for influenza were being stepped up with the number of screening centres in the state capital and Sandakan being increased from eight to 12.

She had also said that the state was upgrading its laboratory capabilities to test for the strain as well as urging travel agencies to advise their customers from influenza-hit countries to postpone their trips.

In Petaling Jaya, a Health Ministry official said no new H7N9 cases had been reported so far.

It had announced the case on the same day that it was discovered.

The tourist had travelled from Guangdong, China, to Kuala Lumpur on Feb 4, then to Sandakan a day later before going to Kota Kinabalu on Feb 6.

She was referred to the private hospital in Kota Kinabalu on Feb 7 and after two screenings on Feb 11, her sample was tested positive for the virus.