Tracking the Ebola outbreak (if any) in Malaysia

Ebola virus disease (EVD) – formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever, its outbreak in West Africa with the first case notified in March 2014, and its effects around the world, continues to get news coverage.

As I write this article, the World Health Organisation (WHO) is investigating reports according to three media outlets that an undisclosed number of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants displaying signs of Ebola have been showing up at an Iraqi hospital in the ISIS-held city of Mosul, 250 miles north of Baghdad. Thus, Malaysians who are fighting there alongside other ISIS militants – and when they return, are likely to pose a real danger of exposing the Malaysian public with Ebola. Fortunately, the Ministry of Health Malaysia has in place a comprehensive “Guideline on Ebola Viral Disease (EVD) Management In Malaysia” which includes guidelines for healthcare providers to stay alert for and evaluate any probable case,  for example known persons who are returning from ISIS controlled regions. The guidelines ensures screening of an such an individual as a Person Under Investigation (PUI) since he or she was a contact of an EVD case with either a high or low risk.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) warns that the Ebola virus causes an acute, serious illness which is often fatal if untreated. EVD first appeared in 1976 in two African states, and takes its name when the second case occurred in a village near the Ebola River, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) Ninth Revision i.e. ICD-9 for morbidity and mortality coding was adopted by Malaysia by 1978. Since the Ebola virus was first discovered in 1976, Health Information Management (HIM) / Medical Records (MR) practitioners in Malaysia who had just started morbidity and mortality coding using ICD-9, would have coded any probable case of Ebola as “078.89, other specified diseases due to viruses”.

As the Ebola outbreak heightened after the West African outbreak in 2014, any eventuality of an outbreak in Malaysia will not impede our ability to track and respond to the virus within its own borders and makes it easier to share information with the rest of the world. Malaysia’s ability to immediately track and respond to the Ebola outbreak from a public health perspective will be possible with the specificity in patient data morbidity and mortality coding for EVD using the Tenth Revision of ICD i.e. ICD 10, as Malaysia would be able to use the ICD-10 code for the Ebola virus – A98.4 to assess the efficacy of treatment and outcomes. Malaysia adopted ICD-10 by 1 January 1999 in our morbidity and mortality reporting systems.

The infographic by the Coalition for ICD-10 below (click to enlarge the infographic which will open in a new tab of your current browser window), presents the public health benefits of using ICD-10 in the fight against Ebola.

EVD Infographic

References :

  1. Ebola virus disease, Fact sheet N°103 Updated September 2014, World Health Organisation (WHO),viewed 3 January 2015, ,< >
  2. Guidelines On Ebola, Ministry of Health Malaysia, viewed 3 January 2015, ,< >
  3. ICD-10: A Common Language for Public Health, The Coalition for ICD-10,viewed 3 January 2015, ,< >
  4. ISIS fighters ‘have contracted Ebola’: World Health Organisation investigating reports militants showed up at Iraqi hospital with lethal disease, Mail Online, Saturday, Jan 3rd 2015, viewed 3 January 2015, < >

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *