Health Ministry explains American Covid-19 patient recovering after treatment, after US, Cambodia insist she wasn’t infected at all

Health Director-General Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the 83-year-old woman has shown positive development, but is still under monitoring in Sungai Buloh Hospital as she is still exhibiting minor cough. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Health Director-General Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the 83-year-old woman has shown positive development, but is still under monitoring in Sungai Buloh Hospital as she is still exhibiting minor cough. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 22 ― The Ministry of Health (MOH) has announced today that the 22nd Covid-19 patient in Malaysia, an American lady from the Westerdam cruise ship, is recovering after 72 hours of treatment.

In a statement, Health Director-General Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the 83-year-old woman has shown positive development, but is still under monitoring in Sungai Buloh Hospital as she is still exhibiting minor cough.

“She had shown improvements after 72 hours of treatment initiation. Therefore, the repeated Covid-19 tests were done, two tests, 24 hours apart.

“Both the repeated tests were found to be negative for Covid-19,” he said.

This explanation came after the United States Centre for Disease Control (CDC) was quoted telling USA Today yesterday that it decided that all passengers aboard the cruise ship tested negative, including the 83-year-old woman currently quarantined in Malaysia.

“I have confirmed that all the passengers were tested, and they have come back negative for coronavirus, including the person who initially tested positive,” CDC spokesman Richard Quartarone was quoted saying.

Quartarone also insisted that the woman “may have had a respiratory illness, but if she did, it was not Covid-19”.

The CDC’s claim came despite the woman previously testing positive for Covid-19, twice.

The American woman was detected by a thermal scanner in the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on February 15, before an X-ray test showing her suffering from pneumonia.

She was warded in an isolation ward in the Sungai Buloh Hospital, and her oropharyngeal and nasopharyngeal clinical samples were tested by the Institute of Medical Research. Both samples had tested positive twice.

Following which, she was given anti-viral treatment of lopinavir/ritonavir, together with oxygen aid for her symptoms.

Lopinavir/Ritonavir (LPV/r), sold under the brand name Kaletra among others, is a fixed dose combination medication for the treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS. It combines lopinavir with a low dose of ritonavir.

The Cambodian Health Ministry has also reportedly raised “doubt over the accuracy” of Malaysia’s diagnosis, as it backed the decision of its government to let the Westerdam dock in the country.

Cambodia and its prime minister Hun Sen had received much praise from the US and president Donald Trump over the move, but was criticised by the rest of the world for it.

Hun Sen reportedly told his Cabinet that “justice is given to Cambodia and all the passengers on the ship” after Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said yesterday that the American woman has now tested negative for Covid-19.

Dr Noor Hisham explained today that the woman tested negative following the treatment given. Further tests will be conducted to confirm that she has fully recovered, he said.

Malaysia has recorded 22 cases, with the American woman being the most recent case. No new cases have been recorded for almost a week.

Out of those, 17 cases in Malaysia have been cured, with zero deaths. Worldwide, a total of 18,888 cases have recovered.

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