Sat, May 10, 2003 - Page 1 News List

400 quarantined in apartment complex

CONTAINMENT The Taipei City Government decided to seal the complex in Wanhua district after SARS was suspected in the death of a man and in illness of others

By Debby Wu  /  STAFF REPORTER

A woman covers her face as she walks by the sealed-off Huachang Public Housing Complex in Taipei City's Wanhua district yesterday.

PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES

The Department of Health (DOH) yesterday ordered an apartment complex in Taipei's Wanhua district to be sealed off and its 400 residents quarantined there after a resident died of unknown causes and two of his neighbors were suspected of having contracted severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

People living in about 140 households in the Huachang Public Housing Complex on Alley 23, Lane 160, Tali Street, were told to return home and stay there for 14 days.

A 74-year-old veteran, Shih Feng-piao (史鳳標), who lived by himself in the complex, was found dead on Thursday.

The Taipei City Government said an initial examination suggested that Shih could have been dead for more than 10 days, but it has yet to be determined what killed him.

The city government also said it could not confirm or deny a rumor that Shih had gone to Jen Chi Hospital before his death. The hospital was sealed off on April 27 after several suspected SARS cases were discovered there.

On the same day that Shih's body was found, two middle-aged female neighbors were reported as possible SARS cases.

Although the DOH decided to quarantine the apartment complex as a precaution, it vehemently denied that community transmission had occurred there.

"This is not community transmission we are looking at here," the DOH said. "There is no proof that the two women contracted SARS via a medium instead of direct contact with SARS patients."

"The most important thing now is to find the source responsible for these two women's illness, so that we can stop the epidemic from spreading further into other places," it said.

Deputy Taipei City Mayor Ou Chin-der (歐晉德) said that all the complex's residents had been told to return to their homes immediately, where their temperatures would be taken.

"The three households of the deceased man and two possible SARS patients, the public areas and areas within 50m of the complex will be sterilized by the Taipei City Government. The other residents should disinfect their homes by themselves," Ou said.

As of yesterday, the country had reported 149 probable SARS cases and 229 suspected cases. There have been 13 deaths.

In addition, 10,904 people nation-wide have been subjected to home quarantine, according to the DOH.

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