KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is stepping up precautionary measures in the wake of an outbreak of yellow fever in northern Nigeria that has claimed 16 lives.
Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the health authorities will work with the Department of Immigration to determine at the entry points whether foreigners and Malaysians who have been in the high-risk countries have been vaccinated against the disease.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) lists 29 countries in Africa and 13 in southern and central America as high-risk yellow fever areas.
Foreigners and Malaysians travelling to Malaysia from these high-risk countries can be quarantined for up to six days upon entry into the country so as to avert the risk of their infecting others, he said in a statement.
He said the Health Ministry has taken note of the outbreak of yellow fever on Aug 1 in Nigeria as contained in a situation report of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control obtained by the Disease Control Division of the ministry.
“Monitoring of travellers from countries at risk with yellow fever risk found that 39,187 travellers were screened in 2018 and 21,853 in 2019 (Jan – July), while the total number of visitors who did not carry a valid yellow fever certificate was 143 in 2018 and and 29 from January until July 30, 2019,” he said in a statement here today.
The travellers were quarantined so that their status could be monitored before they were allowed to enter the country.
Noor Hisham said the Health Ministry (MOH) was also working with the Education Ministry to ensure vaccination requirements among foreign students from countries at risk of infection were followed.
The MOH had also increased alertness among health personnel for the early detection of yellow fever cases and the need for notification for the purpose of controlling and preventing the spread of the disease.
“It (MOH) is also working with relevant agencies including the Foreign Ministry and Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry to make travellers aware of the need for yellow fever vaccinations if they were planning to visit at-risk countries,” he said.
He added events involving international participants should be monitored with the cooperation of the organisers including government agencies and non-governmental organisations.
Dr Noor Hisham also advised Malaysians who wished to visit countries at risk of transmitting yellow fever to get their vaccinations at least 10 days before their date of departure and to bring their immunisation certificate when travelling abroad.
“The yellow fever vaccine is available at the Yellow Fever Vaccination Centre recognised by the MOH, which would also provide information about the disease from time to time,” he said.
Yellow fever is a mosquito-borne infectious disease spread by the aedes mosquito and in 85 per cent of the cases, there are mild or no symptoms of the disease.
However, he said, those with symptoms would have fever, chills, body aches, headaches, nausea and vomiting during the first phase.
“About 15 per cent of the cases from the first phase will get into the second phase where patients will have symptoms of fever with jaundice, abdominal pain, vomiting and bleeding, and 50 per cent of the cases who are in he second phase, will die.
“The disease can be detected through a blood test. There is currently no specific treatment for the disease but taking the yellow fever vaccine can prevent the infection,” he said.
Dr Noor Hisham has confirmed that no cases of yellow fever had been reported in Malaysia, but the country is at risk of transmitting the disease because of the presence of the Aedes mosquito.
“The yellow fever virus can be transmitted to Malaysia through visitors arriving from at-risk countries who have been infected with the disease and have not had the yellow fever vaccine,” he said. – Bernama