KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry will consider conducting surprise checks at the Causeway as it is concerned that several suspect SARS patients are being allowed to return home after falling ill in Singapore.
Health deputy director-general Datuk Dr Ismail Merican said out of the five new suspect cases and one pending case reported as of Tuesday, two patients had been allowed back into the country although records show they had developed SARS symptoms in the republic.
One of them is a 34-year-old lorry driver from Kedah who had been transporting computers to Singapore until April 17. The man fell sick on April 12 and but was only admitted to the Alor Star Hospital on April 19.
The other case was a contract worker from Singapore’s Pasir Panjang Wholesale Market who fell ill on April 8. The 30-year-old man from Kelantan returned to Kota Baru on April 21 after stopping over at Johor Baru from Singapore on April 19.
Dr Ismail said authorities were in the midst of tracking down family members, colleagues and those who had come in contact with these two men.
On the pending case, Dr Ismail said it involved a security guard working with a transport company in Shah Alam. The 44-year-old man developed fever, cough and breathing difficulties from April 15, with records of changes in his chest x-ray.
“Although the man, who is also diagnosed as HIV positive, did not visit Singapore, he may have come in contact with one or two lorry drivers from the republic who were suffering from cough and fever,” he said.
He hoped officials would be more vigilant and careful with the control measures implemented at the southern border due to the high number of people crossing the Causeway daily.
Asked if delays of reporting to designated hospitals were due to suspect SARS patients seeking traditional treatment first, Dr Ismail said: “If that was the case, traditional medicine practitioners should protect themselves and take the necessary precautions when dealing with people who come from affected countries.
No new probable cases were reported.
Six people were under home quarantine, while the total number of people in isolation wards stood at 19: Federal Territory (5), Selangor (4), Perlis (3), Penang (2), Negri Sembilan (2) and one each in Kedah, Kelantan and Perak. All are reported to be in stable condition.
Dr Ismail said the sole probable SARS patient at the Penang Hospital was recovering well and her condition was reported to be stable.
On the probable case of the Kulim man being re-classified, he said the man had been discarded from that category as he responded well to antibiotics and doctors discovered that he had suffered from bacterial pneumonia.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng told television station ntv7 that countries should work together in the fight against SARS and not point fingers at each other.
“We should not hurl accusations against any of the affected countries like Singapore, China and Hong Kong. It is better to co-operate with Singapore,” he said during an interview over the station’s Edisi 7 news bulletin.