Malaysia To Announce Steps To Prevent The Wuhan Virus That Has Now Spread Beyond China

China has classified the outbreak in the same category as the SARS outbreak.

Cover image via Malay Mail & New Straits Times

The Ministry of Health is monitoring an emergency meeting between the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Chinese authorities to discuss the Wuhan virus before announcing the next course of action for Malaysia

The emergency meeting between the WHO and the Chinese authorities is scheduled for today, 22 January, in which the parties involved will determine the next steps to be taken to tackle the outbreak of the deadly virus which has now spread beyond China's borders, reported New Straits Times.

According to Deputy Health Minister, Dr Lee Boon Chye, additional measures on preventing an outbreak in Malaysia would be announced soon after the WHO's meeting.

The Wuhan coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is in the same family as the Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) which killed more than 700 people in 2002 and 2003, and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

At the time of writing, the Wuhan coronavirus has infected more than 400 people and killed nine in an outbreak that has struck China, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and now the United States.

A temperature screening device is seen at KLIA.

Image via New Straits Times

Dr Lee said that the coronavirus had the potential to turn into a serious infection if necessary actions are not taken to prevent its spread

"The ministry is on high alert and will announce additional measures as soon as possible, Dr Lee was quoted as saying by New Straits Times earlier today, 22 January.

"We have been screening travellers from Wuhan. The ministry is keeping track of the situation, including the sudden surge in cases in China. Some cases include places outside Wuhan and there are reports suggesting human-to-human transmission (related to the coronavirus)."

According to Dr Lee, while the Chinese authorities are screening their travellers exiting the country to curb the virus from spreading to other nations, Malaysia is screening travellers at entry points.

"If travellers with symptoms are picked up at the airport, they will be quarantined and treated immediately," the Deputy Health Minister added.

Dr Lee showing a thermal scanner to screen travellers at KLIA, Sepang.

Image via New Straits Times

Meanwhile, the WHO's meeting today is supposed to determine whether to declare the outbreak "a public health emergency of international concern" and if so, what should be done to manage it

AFP News Agency reported that the designation is rare and has only been used for the gravest epidemics such as the H1N1 in 2009 or swine flu from 2014 to 2016.

Prior to the emergency meeting that's happening in Geneva, the Chinese government on Tuesday, 21 January, announced that it was classifying the outbreak in the same category as the SARS outbreak.

Since the announcement, it has now become compulsory isolation for those diagnosed with the disease and the potential to implement quarantine measures on travel.

Depending on what the WHO decides today in the meeting and should it take the same step as China, it would put the Wuhan virus in the same category as serious epidemics.

A passenger wearing a mask is seen at Hongqiao International Airport in Shanghai, China.

Image via New Straits Times

In Malaysia, authorities have screened 258,246 passengers and 8,808 crew from 2,494 flights for the period of 15 January to 20 January

While 61 of the 267,054 passengers and airline crew members screened at KLIA recorded high body temperature readings, none of those detected were linked to the Wuhan coronavirus.

"61 people were found to have high body temperature readings but a second scan found that the passengers, among them Malaysians, Myanmar, and Irish nationals, were suffering from common fever," Dr Lee was quoted as saying today by Malay Mail.

"We have taken steps to improve screening at all entry points to the country, and to date, no such cases have been detected in the country," he added.

The virus has now spread to the United States and Taiwan:

Read more about the outbreak that began in Wuhan, China:

You may be interested in: