PENANG: Malaysia has been commended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for its swift plan of action in checking the occurrence of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng confirmed that there were no SARS cases in the country so far, although 51 cases had been reported in neighbouring Singapore.
The disease was rapidly spreading with 400 cases reported worldwide, excluding China.
In a letter addressed to the ministry's deputy director-general of health, acting WHO representative Joel A. Vanderburg said the organisation greatly appreciates preparation made by the ministry to inform and educate the public, the aviation industry and healthcare professionals to safeguard public health.
Chua said the comprehensive plan formulated by the ministry based on the lessons learnt from the Nipah Virus outbreak in 1999, could be used by the WHO as an advisory model for other countries to emulate.
Although there are no SARS cases here, there is no guarantee that the country will not be affected because of its proximity with Singapore (identified by WHO as one of the centres for local transmission) and people travelling in and out of the affected countries,'' he said.
He was speaking after opening World TB Day themed TB sufferer: DOTS (Directly Observed Therapy, Short Course) Cured Me Can Also Cure You at a hotel here yesterday.
Chua said to check SARS, the ministry implemented a nationwide monitoring system, alerted all clinics and hospitals and stressed the need to immediately isolate suspected cases.
We also advised the airlines and gave SARS alert cards to all in-coming travellers.''
He said ongoing efforts would be taken to contain the disease as long as it poses a threat'', adding that none of the 27 suspected cases in the country fit the SARS verification guidelines provided by the WHO.
Compared to casualties of war, microbes posed an even greater threat to mankind with the emergence of new pathogens such as SARS, Ebola and Nipah and re-emergence of old diseases such as TB, he said.
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