The contagious nature of Influenza A (H1N1) is less of a concern for the state government and health authorities than the possibility of it mutating to become more serious and life-threatening.
“The virus is quite mild at the moment, but we fear that if there is a huge number of cases the virus would mutate and become more deadly,” Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Dr George Chan stated at a press conference yesterday.
Dr Chan also announced the state’s seventh confirmed H1N1 case, a 20-year-old female clerk who went to Bangkok, Thailand.
When asked if he thought Sarawakians were overreacting to the disease, Dr Chan said it was better to be safe than sorry.
“The medical personnel need to be professional and they have to follow directives from headquarters (Health Ministry). We need to be very careful in this matter,” he said.
Urban Development and Tourism Minister Datuk Michael Manyin told reporters on Thursday that people should not overreact to the disease as it could adversely affect the airline and tourism industries.
Manyin stated that it was the ordinary flu that killed millions of people every year.
On the seventh confirmed case, Dr Chan said the woman went to Bangkok with her younger brother for a holiday and returned to Malaysia on June 30 using AirAsia X flight XD3571 which landed at the Sepang’s Low Cost Carrier Terminal at 10am. Her seat number was 7A.
Next, she boarded AirAsia flight AK5214 to return here, arriving at Kuching International Airport at 6.45pm.
She was on seat 17B.
The woman developed fever, runny nose, and cough on the same day and sought treatment from a Chinese physician at 11am the following day.
Fearing for her health, she went to Sarawak General Hospital at 3pm for virus screening.
A medical officer took a throat swab from her and her brother and sent the samples to Kuala Lumpur for analysis.
The woman’s sample tested positive and she was admitted to the isolation ward at 9.30am yesterday.
Her brother, on the other hand, tested negative.
“Four family members who came into contact with the woman are already placed under home quarantine,” said Dr Chan, adding that to date about 50 people who are friends and relatives of confirmed cases have been put under home quarantine.
Passengers who were seated three rows in front and behind the woman are advised to immediately contact the nearest health office or call the State Health Department on 082-248316.
“Currently, five people are under investigation, with two of them in Kuching and one in Sibu,” said Dr Chan.
Out of the seven confirmed cases, four have recovered and been discharged from hospital.