Malaysia steps up Ebola screening at major airports

A medical worker is help to wearing protective gears against Ebola during a preparedness and response by the Malaysian Ministry of Health in an event of an outbreak of Ebola in Putrajaya on Oct 17, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
A medical worker is help to wearing protective gears against Ebola during a preparedness and response by the Malaysian Ministry of Health in an event of an outbreak of Ebola in Putrajaya on Oct 17, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

PUTRAJAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia's Health Ministry is stepping up efforts against the spread of the deadly Ebola virus, which is ravaging West Africa and has crossed continents to the United States and Spain.

Entry points, particularly international airports in Selangor, Penang, Johor Baru and Kota Kinabalu, are being monitored for travellers who may be infected.

Body temperature scanners, installed at several airports to screen airline passengers for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome in 2003, will now help spot travellers having high fever - a symptom of Ebola.

Travellers coming in via the land borders of Thailand and Singapore in vehicles will be checked and additional monitoring systems are to be installed in Padang Besar, Perlis, and Rantau Panjang, Kelantan.

Public health personnel have conducted simulated exercises to better prepare themselves in the event that they encounter a confirmed Ebola case in the country, according to Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam.

He said there were nine Ebola false alarms in Malaysia as of Oct 15 but the ministry was not taking things lightly.

"The cases involved people from West Africa, mainly from Nigeria," he said at a briefing for reporters on the ministry's Ebola preparedness plan yesterday.

A World Health Organisation (WHO) official warned on Tuesday that new cases of Ebola could hit 10,000 per week by December, from the 1,000 a week now in West Africa.

Dr Subramaniam said travellers running a high fever would be stopped and asked if they had in the three weeks prior to arriving here been in any of the countries affected by Ebola.

"Immigration officers will also scrutinise passports to look for such travellers," he said.

"If they have been to these countries, they will be quarantined at the airport." Public health officers would then assess the situation and act accordingly.

Dr Subramaniam gave an assurance that that there were enough health officers trained to handle Ebola cases.

On Malaysians working or living in the countries affected by Ebola, he said they were required to inform Immigration if they returned here.

He could not provide the exact number of these Malaysians, but believed they could be in the hundreds.

WHO has not recommended any travel restrictions so far, except in cases where individuals were confirmed to be infected or had been in contact with an Ebola patient.