Newcastle University Medicine Malaysia

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Malaysia’s Efforts Against COVID-19

Governments are stepping up efforts to contain Covid-19 infections as they spread rapidly around the world. With surges of new cases being reported outside of China, the list of infected countries is growing longer every day. The World Health Organization (WHO) states this outbreak poses a global threat and challenge for public health presently as there are no effective antiviral treatment and vaccine to counteract the disease, especially as we are still learning and understanding its transmission dynamics fully.

The priority now would be to limit human-to-human transmission including reducing secondary infections among close contacts and health care workers,” says Dr Edmund LC Ong, an Honorary Professor of Medicine at Newcastle University Medicine Malaysia (NUMed). He further commented that as the virus is new, researchers are still racing around the clock to learn more about it and the development of antiviral treatments and vaccines is still under way. “Every effort must be introduced to identify, isolate and care for patients early, including providing optimised care for infected patients,” explains Dr Ong who is trained in Infectious Diseases and General Internal Medicine in the UK and is actively involved in infection-related clinical research and teaching.

 

The international communities of all sectors, not just the medical profession, should focus on health measures such as rapid identification, case management, implementation of health measures for health travellers, and awareness-raising in the population.” said Dr Ong.

 

The general public also needs to stay cautious and do their part to fight Covid-19 by practicing the basic principles of prevention and control of infection. These include:

 

1. Frequent hand washing with soap and water, or using an alcohol-based sanitisers that has at least 60% alcohol

2. Avoid close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infection with symptoms

3. People with symptoms of acute respiratory infection should maintain their distance, cover coughs and sneezes, wear surgical masks and seek medical opinion

4. Avoid unprotected contact with farm or wild animals

Dr Ong explains that there is little evidence on the usefulness of surgical masks as a general preventive measure for persons who are not ill and have no respiratory symptoms. He also advises the public to not propagate fake news about the outbreak as misinformation generates irrational fear and unwarranted anxiety. 

WHO recently commended Malaysia for its ability to deal with Covid-19. Dr Ong believes this is because the government has been very transparent in its dealing with all the diagnosed and suspected cases, and the communication to the public has been excellent. He highlighted initiatives like the virtual advice service portal launched by the Ministry of Health Malaysia (KKM) recently with the cooperation of doctor-on-call to deal with general public concerns about the COVID-19 outbreak. This portal is the first government initiative in the region and is provided for free to the people of Malaysia. An additional innovation is a collaborative project with the private medical sector to provide sample collection services from home, and have it tested for Covid-19. This service is specifically targeted for asymptomatic individuals, to enable them to undergo the testing at home and prevent overcrowding at government health facilities.

Nevertheless, as health officials are learning more about the virus, the public should continue to take precautionary measures to impede the spread of infection especially with the most effective prevention and control of infection by WASHING YOUR HANDS properly !

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