Sat, May 03, 2003 - Page 1 News List

WHO raises SARS status

JOIN THE CLUBTaiwan now has the same status as heavily infected Hong Kong and Beijing

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan's rising death toll from severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, has lost it its status on the WHO list of SARS-affected areas as one of "limited local transmission" and now shares the unenvied status of an "affected area," along with other SARS blackspots such as Hong Kong and Beijing.

The reclassification came in the WHO's report Thursday, on the international SARS epidemic.

The WHO defines an affected area as a region at the first administrative level where the country is reporting local transmission of SARS within the last 20 days.

Apart from Taiwan, Toronto, Beijing, Hong Kong, Inner Mongolia, Shanxi, Tianjin, Mongolia's Ulan Bator and Singapore are also classified as affected areas.

The Cabinet, which is convening inter-ministerial meetings on fighting the epidemic on a daily basis, reported yesterday the death toll from SARS had risen to five with three more deaths from complications of the disease.

"These five cases died directly from SARS. On top of this, another three people have died of SARS-related diseases," said Lee Lung-teng (李龍騰), deputy director-general of the Department of Health (DOH).

Lee said although coronavirus has been found in samples from the other three cases, the people did not die directly from SARS.

As some taxi drivers and hairdressers have been suspected of being infected with the disease even though they have no contact history with SARS patients, Lee was asked whether community spread of the disease has taken place.

"We cannot answer this question because we are still not clear about their contact or travel histories," Lee said.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), as of yesterday afternoon, probable SARS cases have risen to 100, with 25 people having been discharged from hospitals and five fatalities.

Suspected cases have increased to 97, with 45 having been discharged from hospitals. Reported SARS cases nationwide were 509, according to the CDC.

Lee said that around 200 reported cases came from Taipei Municipal Hoping Hospital and Jen Chi Hospital.

Lee also appealed to the public not to rush to buy N95 particulate surgical masks, which are now in short supply. The special surgical masks are designed to be used in a healthcare setting; it was not necessary for members of the public to wear such masks, he said.

Meanwhile, Johnnason Liu (劉德勳), vice chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), said that two reporters from China have been quarantined in a hotel.

"However, even though they have been isolated in the hotel, they continued their reporting activities. The council has asked them to stop their reporting activities. If they do not, they will be deported, he said.

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