KUALA LUMPUR: A taxi driver here and a Penang port labourer are the latest patients being investigated for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Health deputy director-general Datuk Dr Ismail Merican said.
“Although the two had no travel history to any of the SARS-affected countries, they have been admitted and treated for their flu-like symptoms and pneumonic changes in their chest X-rays,” he said.
The 54-year-old taxi driver, who fell ill on April 27, was admitted to Universiti Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) while the 49-year-old labourer was placed in the isolation ward of the Penang Hospital. The status of both cases are pending.
Dr Ismail said 68 contacts of the labourer have been put under quarantine as a precautionary measure.
“The labourer, who is a heroin addict, had started working at the port on April 23 and fell sick the following day. He developed fever, cough and shortness of breath,” he said.
Dr Ismail said that although the two might not have contacts with anyone from affected countries, the authorities would carry out investigations on their contacts, adding that the taxi driver might have taken passengers from those countries.
So far there are eight cases with pending status, which include two deaths.
As of Wednesday evening, the ministry has recorded four new suspect cases – two in Selangor and one each in Kuala Lumpur and Malacca.
They include a 23-year-old male tourist from China who has been warded at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital.
The three remaining suspect cases all had visited Singapore.
They are a 28-year-old Malaysian male at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital, a trailer driver, 24, at Malacca Hospital and a 31-year-old lawyer isolated at the UMMC. Their chest X-rays are normal.
On the 53-year-old factory worker who died at the Sultanah Aminah Hospital on Monday, Dr Ismail said the Malaysian woman, who worked in Singapore, was a non-SARS patient.
In Sarawak, he said a total of 685 staff and patients of the Sentosa Mental Hospital and the Sarawak General Hospital in Kuching have been quarantined, while the male ward of the general hospital have been sealed off for cleaning and disinfection purposes.
The total number of people in isolated wards in hospitals nationwide is 27. The breakdown is as follows – six each in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor, five in Sarawak, three in Penang, two in Malacca, and one each in Pahang, Negri Sembilan, Sabah, Perak and Kedah. Over 750 people are now under home quarantine.
To a question, Dr Ismail also clarified that at the airports, passengers arriving from affected countries would be given a health declaration card before proceeding to gates C1 to C27 where they would be given a health alert card.
“They will be physically screened by the medical personnel and their cards will bear the stamp “screened” if they are clear of any SARS symptoms. From there they proceed to the Immigration counters,” he said.
Dr Ismail said passengers arriving from non-affected countries would still be issued a declaration and alert card and proceed to the Immigration counters. Medical staff would still be stationed at the counters to check on these passengers.
Meanwhile in Malacca, the three patients who were being quarantined in the general hospital were all discharged on Wednesday afternoon, LEE YUK PENG reports.
State Human Resources, Health and Consumer Affairs Committee chairman Datuk Seah Kwi Tong said the 22-year-old man from Jasin, 25-year-old lorry driver from Bukit Katil and a 55-year-old American tourist who had been quarantined in the hospital were all fit to leave.
However, the 22-year-old man was asked to continue his quarantine at home for a few days, Seah said.
He said the hospital authorities had also contacted the US Embassy to arrange for a vehicle to pick up the American after no taxi driver was willing to do so.
A total of 10 families, who were asked by health authorities to be quarantined at home after they visited the Pasir Panjang Wholesale Market, were free to move now as the period had lapsed, Seah said.