MALAYSIA'S health ministry today denied a newspaper report that the country had recorded its first death from suspected Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
"It's definitely confirmed it's not SARS," Deputy Health Minister Suleiman Mohamed said.
He was responding to a report in the New Straits Times that a man in his fifties who had recently returned from China was believed to have died from the mysterious pneumonia virus at a hospital in the capital Kuala Lumpur on Monday.
Suleiman said the man was in fact in his seventies, and a spokesman for the ministry said that he had "a 10-year history of heart and kidney problems".
He said the man's wife and son, who travelled with him to China, were both well.
"They have been back for more than 14 days, so it's not likely to be SARS," the spokesman said.
Malaysia's official Bernama news agency reported yesterday that eight people with suspected SARS symptoms had been admitted to hospital for tests.
The respiratory illness, which first erupted in southern China and has been transported to North America and Europe by travellers, has killed more than 60 people worldwide.
Neighbouring Singapore has reported four deaths and 92 cases of SARS.
The Malaysiakini online newspaper reported yesterday that the government had appealed to newspaper editors to "adjust reports" on SARS by leaving out any mention of fatalities.
It quotes a letter to editors from the home ministry dated March 28 as saying: "The government is concerned that such comprehensive and widely-publicised reports will lead to undesirable implications, including striking fear among the people and jeopardising tourist arrivals."