The See Relief Agency (SRA) Old Folks Home Volunteers Organisation today denied that there was an outbreak and believed the source of infection announced on Monday could be traced back to an asymptomatic COVID-19 patient, a resident at the facility.
Its director Sharil Hussein said that he believed infection occurred when there was a close contact between one of the home residents, aged 51, who recovered from COVID-19 and discharged from Sungai Buloh Hospital on June 3 and another resident who was at the hospital for his hypertension problems.
“The two shared a ride home in an ambulance. So there was close contact,” he said.
On Monday, Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said that a 69-year old man had tested positive for the virus after being admitted to Tanjung Karang Hospital for breathing problems.
He added the new case was part of a cluster detected at an old folks home, which had seen two cases, a resident and the caregiver who had attended to him, in May.
Dr Noor Hisham said the source of infection was still under investigation and active case detection as well as sanitisation and disinfection work are being carried out at the home.
This was the third time that the 18 staff and 24 residents at the home have undergo testing.
According to Sharil, the first patient was asymptomatic when he tested positive on May 16 and was subsequently admitted to the Sungai Buloh Hospital for quarantine and treatment.
The patient fully recovered and discharged on June 3 and continued the quarantine at the home while the second patient was placed in the next room for observation and the two were kept away from the other residents, he said.
However, the next day, the first patient started coughing and taken back to Sungai Buloh Hospital.
About a week later, the second patient, who has hypertension and diabetes, developed a fever and breathing problems and taken to Tanjung Karang Hospital and tested positive for COVID-19 on June 15.
Sharil said he was confident there was no outbreak at the home as the management had implemented strict measures to contain COVID-19 after the first two cases were detected in May, including the mandatory two weeks’ quarantine, sanitisation and a second round of testing of staff and residents.
The home also limited the number of visitors and staff were required to wear face masks and gloves when dealing with residents as well as wearing protective equipment.
Sharil said this move has posed another set of complications for the home including shortage of supply (of the equipment).
Since the third case was detected, the home has to obtain more medical equipment, such as blood pressure cuffs and thermometers as well as protective equipment, such as gloves and masks, items that the home could not afford.
“We are a charity home and depend on donations from our Member of Parliament and the public,” he said, adding that they would need about 20 boxes of gloves and 252 personal protective equipment (PPE) gowns soon.
As this is a new virus, questions still abound on its infectivity, effect and duration. There have been reports of some cases where patients showed symptoms outside the two-week quarantine window and a study in Hong Kong has found a third of patients remained positive 20 days after the onset of symptoms.
To date, routine screening has found 30 cases among residents and staff at 421 old folks homes out of an estimated 1,700 in Malaysia.