PUTRAJAYA, 27 June 2020:
The Health Ministry (MoH) will carry out follow-up checks on discharged Covid-19 patients every three months to monitor their antibody levels and lung health.
Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said this is because there is no guarantee that recovered patients cannot be reinfected.
“Follow up examinations on recovered patients are done to detect if there has been damage or changes to their lungs. MoH will need to carry out these checks every three months as there is no guarantee those who have recovered cannot be reinfected,” he said at the media briefing on Covid-19 here yesterday.
Referring to local media reports that former Covid-19 patients could be easily prone to infections, Dr Noor Hisham said that finding was based on foreign studies, and such cases have yet to be detected in Malaysia.
The World Health Organisation (WHO), he said, had before this cautioned against issuing “immunity passports” to recovered Covid-19 patients as there is no evidence they are protected from a second infection.
“This means if you have been infected, it does not mean you cannot be infected again. This is because antibodies built (while fighting the first infection) may not be enough to protect you from a second infection and so forth. And that is why these follow-up checks are important.”
Dr Noor Hisham said Malaysia and the global community’s experiences in dealing with former Covid-19 patients had not gone beyond six months, and as such, it is hard to predict what could happen in the future.
“Foreign studies show that the antibodies developed in recovered Covid-19 patients dropped after about eight weeks.”
Asked on the usage of disinfection tunnels, Dr Noor Hisham again reminded the public there is no clinical evidence to prove that they were beneficial.
“The ministry still does not encourage the usage of the disinfection tunnel. In fact, we (MoH) are worried about the safety and side effects.
“Because the virus is inside the body (and) not on the surface. The chemical sprayed in the tunnel may be (harmful), causing irritation to the skin, eyes and the mouth. It may also trigger asthma.”
Meanwhile, MoH suspects the malaria case involving 14 individuals – including a local citizen in Ampang, Selangor – was caused by a foreign worker who was infected by the disease in his home country.
Dr Noor Hisham said the Indonesian construction worker was believed to have contracted the disease in Aceh, Indonesia.
“The infection was later spread to his colleagues and nearby residents including a Malaysian. The last case was reported on June 12 and the situation is currently under control,” he said in a separate statement.
Of the total infected individuals, Dr Noor Hisham said nine were Indonesians, Bangladeshis (three) Malaysian (one) Nepalese (one).
He said 13 cases were detected through active case detection conducted after receiving a notification of a malaria case on May 20 from the Ampang Hospital, involving a Bangladeshi worker at the construction site of a highway project in Ampang, Selangor.
Some people were screened, he said adding that of the total, 10 foreigners were found to have been infected by malaria.
“At the same time, three other cases were detected at nearby health facilities involving two foreigners and a Malaysian.”
Dr Noor Hisham said all the patients were admitted to hospital for further treatment and have recovered from the disease.
As part of precautionary and control measures, He said the Hulu Langat District Health Office had conducted residual spraying at 193 kongsi houses and distributed 340 medicated mosquito nets to the workers to protect them.
Works to eliminate mosquito breeding grounds as well as malaria control activities were also carried out and expanded to nearby residential areas.
“The ministry has also conducted a series of discussions with the highway construction project management to discuss on malaria control and prevention activities.
“Enforcement under to the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 (Act 342) and Destruction of Disease-Bearing Insects Act 1975 (Act 154) is also being carried out by the ministry.”
Dr Noor Hisham also advised the public to seek immediate treatment at your nearest clinic or hospital if they experience symptoms such as fever and chills.