Sunday, April 06, 2003

Ministry confirms first death related to SARS

By AUDREY EDWARDS

KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry confirmed yesterday the first death related to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome SARS.
Health Director-General Tan Sri Dr Mohamad Taha Arif said the 64-year-old Chinese male from Jerantut, Pahang, who died on March 30, was admitted to Kuala Lumpur Hospital in a serious condition a day earlier.
“After being informed by specialists who reviewed the case again and what we found in the post-mortem, we can now consider this case as probable,” he told reporters after checking out its SARS screening centre at the KL International Airport (KLIA) satellite building.
Acting Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said the Health Ministry must recognise the fears of the public over SARS and it must immediately inform the public because the death was a cause for concern.
“This is not something that has to be covered up and the people’ fears must be taken seriously.
“If there are cases of death or anything which may require action to be taken by the public, then the ministry must make an announcement without any delay.
“We must be transparent in informing the people what they need to do,” he said after delivering his keynote address at the Wholesome Families: Pulse of the Nation seminar and dialogue session at Putra World Trade Centre yesterday.
Earlier, Dr Mohamad Taha said the man who died had fever, suffered difficulty in breathing and coughing.
“He went to China from March 6 to 13 with his son and also visited Singapore from March 14 to 16.
“He had already been feeling uncomfortable in China,” he said.
Dr Mohamad Taha also revealed that the man had a history of heart problems and had gone to the hospital because of this.
“He died of heart failure besides being infected by SARS. That is why we can classify it as a probable case because the post-mortem found his lungs to be congested and there were signs of pneumonia.
“Besides this, his heart was weak and enlarged,” he said.
Dr Mohamad Taha said the family members were placed under “home quarantine” in Jerantut for 10 days until April 10.
“So far, there are no reports that they are sick. It is a normal quarantine of 10 days since the last exposure (to the man). If all is okay, they can be released from quarantine. If not, they have to be admitted to the hospital,” he added.
Dr Mohamad Taha said that authorities would trace the passengers and flight crew of the flights that the man had been on, adding that none of the hospital staff who came in contact with the deceased had shown any symptoms of the virus.
On another case in Ipoh, he said, a patient was recovering and his case could not be classified as “probable” yet.
He said family members were still under observation after one of them who came from Singapore a week ago was admitted to Ipoh Hospital for suspected SARS.