41 People Suspected Of MERS Infection Under Surveillance By Health Ministry

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Pic: SunpixPic: SunpixPUTRAJAYA: Forty-one people who are believed to have recently been in direct contact with the 55-year-old who was infected with Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), have been placed under home-surveillance by the Health Ministry in an effort to contain the possible spread of the disease.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said 70 people comprising of family members, relatives, friends, fellow pilgrims during the umrah trip, and medical personnel who had handled the patient, were initially detected and screened for the disease.

"Sixty-one from the 70 people were discovered to have no symptoms, while nine of them presented light symptoms such as fever and have since been admitted at the isolation ward.

"Results for the nine people when tested for MERS-CoV turned out to be negative and have since been cleared and discharged," he told reporters during a press conference at the ministry, here today.

20 of the people were released immediately after screening.

The remaining 41 people, he said, will be place under home surveillance for two weeks from the last day they had contact with the 55-year-old patient.

"They will be visited or contacted by medical personnel from time to time in an effort to monitor their current health status," he said.

The MERS-CoV patient is presently in stable condition at the Sungai Buloh Hospital.

Subsequently, Dr Subramaniam advised pilgrims, heading to perform their umrah in Saudi Arabia, to not visit camel farms as well as consuming either camel's milk or meat.

"The problem is that the camel farm visits are part of the umrah tour package.

"I have spoken to my counterparts during the cabinet meeting on this matter and they have taken it in a positive manner," he added.

Dr Subramaniam's response came after the Health Ministry confirmed the return of the MERS-CoV infection following investigations and diagnosis on a 55-year-old man.

On Monday, Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said a laboratory test conducted on a sample belonging to the patient from Selangor tested positive for the disease.

The patient had returned to the country on Dec 23, after performing the umrah.

The patient had displayed symptoms such as fever, cough, weakness throughout the body, fatigue and leg pain.

"The patient has also admitted that while in the Holy Land, he was taken to a camel farm, where he subsequently drank raw camel milk and came in contact with the camels at the farm."

For the latest information on the disease, the public can check the Health Ministry's website at http://www.moh.gov.my or via the National CPRC (National Crisis Preparedness Response Centre) Facebook page.