Mon, May 12, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Dentist's death causes anxiety in south

MEDICAL MYSTERY Health officials are trying to find out how a Kaohsiung dentist, who had no known contact with SARS patients, contracted the disease

By Chiu Yu-tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Commuters use Taipei's Mass Rapid Transit system yesterday, the first day of a Taipei City Government requirement that all passengers wear masks.

PHOTO: LIN CHENG-KUNG, TAIPEI TIMES

Southern Taiwan is in a state of alert after SARS claimed the life of a Kaohsiung dentist, whose source of infection remains unclear, city officials said yesterday.

As of yesterday afternoon, a cumulative total of 944 SARS cases had been reported with 20 SARS-related deaths. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 12 new probable cases were reported yesterday, bringing the total number of probable cases to 184 and the number of suspected cases to 239.

The Department of Health (DOH) said figuring out the source of infection of probable SARS cases, including that of the dentist, is one of their priorities.

The dentist, DOH officials said, knew of no direct contact with any suspected SARS cases.

Kaohsiung City Government officials said yesterday they were working with neighboring jurisdictions to combat the disease.

"With regard to the dentist's death, we will not rule out any possible clue in order to block the spread of SARS," said Han Ming-jung (韓明榮), director of the city's health bureau.

Health officials are gathering information on the dentist's patients to determine whether any of them had visited areas hard-hit by SARS.

Meanwhile, the situation at Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital has been getting worse. Three physicians who took care of a suspected SARS case surnamed Lin -- who visited Taipei's Jen Chi Hospital, which was shut down on April 29 due to the spread of the disease -- are in isolation.

"They do have a fever. So far, however, we have not observed any signs of respiratory disease," said Chen Chao-long (陳肇隆), superintendent of the Chang Gung Memorial Hospital.

Four relatives of a deceased woman, who was hospitalized in a regular ward of Chang Gung late last month, began to show signs of SARS on Saturday.

Health officials suspect that the four people were infected in the ward, which was shared with Lin, who concealed her visit to Jen Chi Hospital in the middle of last month.

Chang Gung staff mistakenly had Lin stay in a regular ward.

Chen said, however, that the real source of infection remains uncertain because two of the four people were from Taipei, where the spread of SARS seemed to be far more serious.

According to health officials, there are eight suspected SARS cases connected with Lin. At Chang Gung, 32 medical professionals are in isolation.

In Kinmen County, the first suspected SARS case was reported yesterday. County officials said that a 42-year-old woman surnamed Chen developed a fever on Tuesday, four days after she returned to Kinmen from Taipei.

Officials said the patient spent one day taking care of her sick father at National Taiwan University Hospital on April 23. Local health officials held an emergency meeting yesterday morning with the armed forces on how to prevent the spread of SARS in Kinmen.

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