Kuala Lumpur – Screening for symptoms of Ebola haemorrhagic fever among foreign students, haj pilgrims and those entering the country from various entry points has begun as authorities step up precautionary measures to keep the disease, which has killed thousands in West Africa, at bay.
The Malaysian Association of Private Colleges and Universities said it was applying the same procedures and guidelines used for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
Its president, Datuk Dr Parmjit Singh, said foreign students would have to undergo a medical test here as part of the new requirement by the Health Ministry (MOH).
“This process has been introduced by MOH about a month ago. Even before they get their visas, students would have to undergo a medical test. So, all the procedures are in place.
“We are monitoring students from west Africa for symptoms, but no cases have been reported so far.
“From our experience in dealing with SARS, we will carry out our quarantine process, obtain medical assistance and take steps to manage the situation.”
He said a circular by the Education Malaysia Global Services, which is responsible for processing students’ visa, was issued a month ago, including guidelines from MOH.
Although they were unable to stop students from going back to their countries, most students were fearful of being denied entry into Malaysia and quarantined upon return.
Parmjit, who is also Asia-Pacific University of Technology & Innovation chief executive officer, said among its foreign students, about 300 students were from west Africa, while the remaining 5,000 were from the Middle East, Indonesia and Central Asia.
Taylor’s University Dean of the School of Medicine, Professor Dr Abd Rahman Mohd Noor, said measures put in place by the government were sufficient to ensure that the Ebola virus was prevented from reaching Malaysia.
He said the university had introduced measures to ensure that staff and students were informed about the virus.
The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus chief executive officer and Provost Professor Christine Ennew said while Ebola transmission risks were low, the severity of the situation made it necessary for them to follow the guidelines issued by the MOH.
In Kota Baru, the Kelantan Health Department has started screening visitors from Thailand.
A state health department spokesman said officers stationed at the Kelantan-Thai border have been told to be on alert for those exhibiting symptoms of Ebola.
“We briefed other border agencies on the outbreak and urged them to assist us in keeping the virus at bay.”
The screening has begun at the Rantau Panjang checkpoint and will begin soon at the Pengkalan Kubor and Bukit Bunga checkpoints.
On Friday, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said screening mechanisms had been put in place at all entry points into the country to prevent an outbreak.
He said body-heat scanners were being used at international airports and border crossings.
Dr Subramaniam said the temperature of travellers would be screened before they headed to the Immigration checkpoints.
Ebola has struck three west African countries — Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone — since March. It has spread to the United States and Spain.
More than 9,000 people have been infected with the virus, with more than 4,500 deaths.
The World Health Organisation has warned that there could be 10,000 cases a week by December.