SIBU: The state Health Department has clarified that the patient who absconded from Miri Hospital on Friday night is not suspected of contracting Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV).
State Health director Datu Dr Zulkifli Jantan said: “She is not a suspect. Does not meet the criteria (of contracting the contagious disease)”.
“A police report was made because she absconded from the hospital,” he explained.
Dr Zulkifli told The Borneo Post this yesterday when asked on the latest development regarding the patient.
It was reported earlier that a woman suspected of contracting MERS-CoV after a trip to Mecca last month was believed taken away from Miri Hospital by her family members on Friday night – a few hours after admission.
According to the report, a hospital staff lodged a police report on her disappearance at Miri Central Police Station at about 4pm on Saturday.
Miri Hospital director Dr Jack Wong reportedly said since it was now a police case, it was up to the police to locate the patient and bring her back to the hospital.
Meanwhile, Dr Zulkifli said the department had stepped up preventive measures to keep out the disease.“As of now, there are no cases of MERS-CoV detected in Sarawak.”
He added the department was prepared to handle the situation if it arose. He disclosed that the three hospitals in the state; namely Sarawak General Hospital, Sibu General Hospital and Miri General Hospital were equipped with necessary facilities to handle suspected MERS-CoV cases.
On screening of travellers, he said: “We use a thermal scanner as passengers walk past, it will pick up the body temperature.”
“We have also advised travellers to Middle East including Umrah groups to avoid risk areas such as camels and to report to the health authority if they get sick,” added Dr Zulkifli.
Turning to the public, he advised them not to believe in rumours or speculations posted on the social media. At the same time, he advised the public to exercise wisdom and care by not spreading unfounded information on Facebook as it could spark concern among the masses.
Meanwhile, Bernama reported that the Health Ministry (MOH) was strengthening its preparedness and response activities to prevent the MERS-CoV from spreading in the country.
Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said such activities included health screening at international entry points and distributing health warning cards.
Dr Noor Hisham also said in a statement that MERS-CoV screening would focus on visitors arriving from South Korea and the Arab Peninsula.
However, there was no travel restriction yet to countries affected by the virus including South Korea, he said.
Elsewhere, AFP reported World Health Organisation (WHO) and South Korean health authorities had conducted a joint mission to review the outbreak of MERS.
South Korea’s MERS infections increased to 145 yesterday, as seven more cases were discovered.
One more death was reported, bringing the total death toll to 15. South Korea has become the world’s most MERS-contagious area outside of the Middle East.