Cargo pilot is latest SARS case


  • Nation
  • Friday, 25 Apr 2003

BY SUSAN TAM

KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry reported a new probable SARS case yesterday – a 30-year-old air cargo company pilot who recently returned from Hong Kong. 

The man fell sick on Tuesday and was admitted to the Penang Hospital the next day, said deputy director-general Ismail Merican, amid another report that the ministry had traced 203 people who visited a Singapore wholesale market that has been temporarily closed after a worker there was diagnosed with SARS.  

In Johor Baru, authorities detained four people, including one with SARS symptoms, who tried to sneak into Malaysia from Singapore in the trunk of a car. 

Dr Ismail said the pilot, from Kuala Lumpur, had checked into a hotel upon arriving in Penang.  

The authorities managed to trace nine people who had contact with the man and have placed them under quarantine.  

The nine comprised five hotel guests and four crew members – another pilot, a captain, a flight engineer and an attendant. Two of the hotel guests are Japanese. 

Dr Ismail said two hotel guests – from Kedah and Terengganu - had initially not complied with the quarantine order and had gone out.  

“However, the authorities managed to trace them and place them under quarantine,” Dr Ismail said at the daily SARS briefing here.  

Asked if the two would be fined or charged for breaching the order, Dr Ismail said they were given stern warnings and reminders that if they break the order a second time, action would be taken against them. 

Regarding the pilot, who works for Transmile Air, Dr Ismail said he developed fever and cough after arriving in Penang after his flight to Hong Kong.  

“When he developed the symptoms, he visited Penang Hospital, where the doctors discovered that his chest X-ray was normal. The man was released without even being admitted into the wards,” he said. 

The pilot visited several eating outlets the following day and upon receiving a call from the hospital authorities about some changes in his chest X-ray, was admitted into the isolation ward. 

“A tiny area in the man’s lungs showed pneumonia signs. Thus, he was quickly taken to hospital in a designated ambulance for treatment,” Dr Ismail said. 

As of Wednesday, no new suspect SARS cases were reported, with only one non-SARS notification.  

The number of those in isolation wards is 16: three each in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Perlis and Penang and one each in Kedah, Kelantan, Negri Sembilan and Perak. 

In Penang, SIRA HABIBU reports that the hotel where the pilot stayed screened about 200 guests and 100-odd workers.  

A senior executive of the hotel, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the management acted swiftly to seal the entire floor where the man stayed to check transmission.  

“The affected room was sealed off and decontaminated according to Health Ministry specifications and the air-conditioning to the entire floor was shut down,” he said. 

He said preventive measures were taken to safeguard the hotel guests and workers.  

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