KUALA LUMPUR: A new wave of SARS could break out towards the end of the year, the Health Ministry warned.
Its secretary-general Datuk Alias Ali said World Health Organisation (WHO) experts concluded during the recent Global Conference on SARS that the new outbreak could come during the start of the winter months in the north.
“Although Malaysia is not subject to seasonal changes, we still have to maintain a high level of alertness (because) the disease is a travelling bug.
“We will maintain all the SARS wards in the designated hospitals nationwide and look into upgrading laboratory capabilities to ensure we are ready to face the disease and the emergence of other old or new viruses.
“We are glad the overall SARS situation has improved but health screening at entry points will continue,” he told a press conference after chairing the weekly technical committee meeting on SARS yesterday.
Health Ministry Disease Control Division deputy director Dr Hassan Abdul Rahman said winter was viewed as a risk period due to people's lifestyle.
“Based on history, winter is a higher risk season for infectious diseases such as influenza and pneumonia to spread due to the movement (of people) that mainly takes place indoors.
“Indoor activities with overcrowding and close contact can contribute to the transmission of virus,” he said.
Dr Hassan said based on the latest WHO report, the focal areas affected by SARS had shifted from Asia to North America, where most new cases were occurring.
He said of the eight new SARS cases reported between June 16 and 20 worldwide, three each were reported in Canada and the United States.
The other two new cases were in Taiwan while two deaths were registered in Canada, four in China and three more in Taiwan during that period.