KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 23 — A health think tank today proposed that people start treating a new respiratory virus from Wuhan, China, as a garden flu, even as Sabah reports a suspected case.
This is because only if a person goes for testing will they know or be able to distinguish it from any other strain of flu and that of the possibly fatal pneumonia-linked coronavirus, said the Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy’s chief executive, Azrul Mohd Khalib.
“So, essentially, the best method is to treat it (as if) it’s all possible to be the kind of infectious flu that we have year-round,” Azrul told reporters on the sidelines of a vaccination roundtable at International Medical University (IMU) here today.
“Especially with the Wuhan virus right now, we can’t distinguish it without a laboratory assay to discriminate it”.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) reported today that a patient suspected to have contracted the novel coronavirus has been quarantined in Sabah, who is in stable condition and awaiting lab test results. Three other suspected cases in Selangor and Sabah have tested negative for the 2019-nCoV.
Azrul also said today that people should get vaccinated against the existing influenza virus that has plagued Malaysia and seen a few schools shut down. Flu vaccines also ran out in some private hospitals, but this has since been rectified.
“Right now… we are looking at public health measures, which includes looking at screening the points of access (and) identify people who are coming ill,” Azrul said, referring to ongoing thermal screening operation at all international entry points in the country by MOH.
What health experts are looking at here, Azrul explained, is not just preventive measures in terms of screening, but also restorative or rehabilitative treatment and caring provided for those who are sick.
“In terms of the general public, we’re looking at more personal hygiene,” he added. “I’m sure you’ve heard already from other people – it’s pretty much the same, wash hands (and) cover your mouth”.
Wuhan, a central Chinese city that is at the centre of the outbreak, has recorded 17 deaths by the new coronavirus, which has links to the deadly SARS virus. As of 5pm today, 571 cases were reported in China, four in Thailand, two each in Hong Kong and Macau, and one each in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and the United States, totalling 583 cases nationwide.
China’s National Health Commission vice-minister Li Bin reportedly said the virus, which can cause pneumonia, was being spread via breathing. Symptoms include fever, coughing and difficulty breathing.
Meanwhile, Azrul was optimistic of a possible vaccine from Europe which will prevent this particular coronavirus from spreading among those who have yet to be infected.
“There are some vaccines that have been developed for flu influenza, so it’s one of the things that will be explored definitely; it’s just a matter of when it will be provided”.
“At this point in time, we are looking at the management of cases that will appear in different countries,” he said.