A 24-year-old Zimbabwean student in Sarawak has been placed under observation for suspected Ebola virus infection.
Ebola is basically a haemorrhagic fever that starts 2 days to 3 weeks after contracting the virus, with a fever, sore throat, muscle pain and headaches. Typically, vomiting, diarrhea and rash follow, along with decreased functioning of the liver and kidneys. Around this time, affected people may begin to bleed both within the body and externally. Ebola is often fatal to humans and monkeys. A recent outbreak has caused more than 2,000 deaths in West Africa this year and thousands more worldwide.
The suspected case in Sarawak was confirmed by State Assistant Public Health Minister Datuk Dr Jerip Susil, who said that the patient reported himself to Kuching Specialist Centre on Saturday evening feeling feverish.
“He told the hospital that he had been in contact with students from Nigeria and the private hospital took all necessary precautions. Doctors there contacted the state Health Department, and the patient was then moved to the isolation ward at Sarawak General Hospital on Sunday,” Dr Jerip told a hastily press conference arranged press conference after rumours ran wild online on Monday.
Dr Jerip stressed the patient had not developed Ebola symptoms and that the Nigerian students he came in contact with were totally fine. He said it was untrue the university and private hospital had been sealed.
“The patient under investigation is not vomiting and suffering from diarrhoea. Nonetheless, the state Health Department had activated “high precautionary measures. Medical personnel will be going to private university to carry out contact tracing,” said Dr Jerip, urging for public to be calm.
He added it was currently the flu season and that had it been a local who went to the hospital with fever, the precautionary measures would not have been applied.
Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah Monday also gave his assurance that the Health Department will monitor closely for the virus and that the people need not panic following the report that a foreign student at a private institution of higher learning is being quarantined at the Sarawak General Hospital (HUS).
Noor Hisham said the student from Zimbabwe was already in Malaysia since February and was quarantined for fever, sore throat, and cough since 13th September.
“This is a standard operating procedure where hospital staff are taking precautions. The student has no history of international travel records or came into contact with an Ebola patient in the past 21 days before showing the symptoms,” he said. Noor Hisham also said for the time being, Zimbabwe is not listed as an Ebola infected country.
He also stressed that if there was an Ebola case in Malaysia, the ministry will be the first to announce it and will also inform the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Samples from the 24-year-old Zimbabwean student have been collected for testing with results expected this week. The US’s Centre for Disease Control had also been informed as a precaution.