Saturday May 16, 2009
21-year-old student from US has H1N1
>Reports by FOONG PEK YEE, DHARMENDER SINGH, MARTIN CARVALHO, TAN SIN CHOW, YENG AI CHUN, KNG ZHENG GUAN and RACHEL LAU. >Pictures by GLENN GUAN.
PUTRAJAYA: The influenza A(H1N1) virus has landed in Malaysia.
The first case of the flu with pandemic potential was confirmed when a young student who returned from the United States on Wednesday developed a fever and was hospitalised.
Test results yesterday confirmed that the student had the virus.
The 21-year-old student, who flew on Malaysia Airlines flight MH091 from Newark, New Jersey, to the KL International Airport (KLIA) via Stockholm in Sweden, has been placed in an isolation ward at the Sungai Buloh Hospital since Thursday evening and is being treated with anti-viral medication.
Acting Health Minister Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha said all five family members of the patient, who live in the Klang Valley, had been placed under quarantine in their home and their condition was being monitored.
They will be observed for a week before they can be declared clear of the disease.
Kong said the ministry was trying to identify all those who came in contact with the student since he returned home so that they could be tested.
“We are also working with MAS to trace all passengers and crew members on board the flight so we can have them tested as soon as possible,” Kong said.
He said it was possible that not all those on the flight were still in the country as Kuala Lumpur may have just been a transit stop before they continued their journey but the ministry would be providing information on the case to the World Health Organisation.
Asked if it was possible that some passengers on the flight may not want to be identified for fear of being placed under quarantine, he said the measure was to ensure their safety and that of others around them.
“We urge all those on the flight to contact the nearest hospital or the ministry so that they can tested and not wait for us to contact them or for the symptoms to show before acting,” he said, adding that they should immediately go to a hospital if they had symptoms linked to the disease.
Kong said all major hospitals in the country had already set aside space so that patients testing positive for the A(H1N1) virus could be placed in isolation wards.
He said that the patient managed to pass through the scanners at KLIA undetected but did not mean that they were ineffective as it was possible the student did not show any symptom at that time.
He said the virus had a two- to three-day incubation period during which symptoms linked to the disease were not visible and that could have been why the scanner did not detect a fever after his flight landed at 7.15am on Wednesday.
Kong said the Health Ministry would continue to use the scanners at entry points and take all precautionary measures.
“The ministry has taken all the possible precautionary measures to control and contain the disease after the WHO issued a level-five alert. We are urging the public not to panic as the situation is under control,” he said.
In Malacca, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Mohd Yassin expressed confidence that the Health Ministry and other government agencies would be able to contain the spread of the A(H1N1) flu.
He told reporters after opening the national-level Youth Day celebration yesterday that the fact that the health authorities managed to detect the infection revealed the effectiveness of the National Pandemic Preparedness Plan implemented by the ministry.
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