KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia is one of a number of countries ramping up airport screening of passengers arriving from China, after authorities in that country confirmed that a new strain of coronavirus has been passed from person to person.
China's National Health Commission said the outbreak, which began in the central city of Wuhan, has now spread to other cities including Beijing and Shanghai.
Cases have been reported in Thailand, South Korea and Japan, all involving people who had visited Wuhan.
Malaysian response teams at all international entry points and health facilities around the country, particularly the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), have been placed on high alert.
Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said thermal scanners and health quarantine centres at the KLIA terminal have been on high surveillance mode
Major US airports have begun screening for the virus, as well as Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines.
In Australia, stricter screening measures are being applied, particularly to the three flights a week that arrive in Sydney from Wuhan.
Those flights are being met by border security and biosecurity staff as well health officials.
The new disease is the same type of virus as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed nearly 800 people globally during a 2002-2003 outbreak.
International health authorities are urging calm, saying with the right precautions the current outbreak will not become as deadly.