Wed, May 21, 2003 - Page 1 News List

SARS spreads to another hospital in Kaohsiung

By Chiu Yu-tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The SARS outbreak in southern Taiwan has apparently spread from Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, the Department of Health (DOH) said yesterday.

According to the department's Center for Disease Control (CDC), 35 probable SARS cases were reported at Kaohsiung Medical University Hospital yesterday, of which 13 were thought to have caught the disease at Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital.

CDC Director Su Yi-jen (蘇益仁) urged residents in Kaohsiung to change their behavior when visiting hospitals.

"Patients should go back to the hospital they originally visited in order to avoid spreading SARS inadvertently," Su said in Taipei yesterday.

Later in the day, Su said that people in southern Taiwan should avoid going to hospitals for at least the next week and should take their body temperatures at least twice a day.

Officials said the DOH had sent a medical team to Kaohsiung Medical University Hospital. Su said the situation there could deteriorate further.

Lee Ming-liang (李明亮), head of the SARS-prevention command center under the Cabinet's SARS Response Committee said he was still concerned about the spread of the disease.

"What we are seeing is the arrival of more waves of SARS hitting the hospitals," Lee said.

The committee yesterday sent another 10 senior health-care professionals from the north to Chang Gung. Officials said if no new SARS cases are reported by Sunday, the situation at the hospital could be regarded as under control.

According to former Taipei City Bureau of Health director Yeh Chin-chuan (葉金川), who is in charge of investigating outbreaks at hospitals, said that the situation at Kaohsiung Medical University Hospital was under control so far.

"But we are sure that the original source of the SARS virus at Kaohsiung Medical University Hospital was from Kaohsiung Chang Gung Hospital," Yeh said.

Kaohsiung Medical University Hospital superintendent Hung Chuen-lung (洪純隆) said that 22 nurses and five physicians were quarantined at the southern hospital.

"We are isolating them just in case because not all of them have confirmed SARS symptoms," Hung said, adding that they all had fevers or coughs.

Han Ming-jung (韓明榮), director of Kaohsiung City's Bureau of Health, said yesterday that patients who visited Chang Gung should either go back to the hospital or to the city's special SARS clinic.

However, Han said, some Chang Gung patients had gone to two municipal hospitals instead, increasing the risk of spreading the disease further.

The spread of SARS at Chang Gung prompted water resources officials to step up security at the nearby water purification plant at Cheng Ching Lake, which supplies drinking water to Kaohsiung City.

According to Water Resources Agency officials, visitors will be banned from all the nation's water purification plants to ensure water does not become a medium of SARS infections.

Meanwhile, a senior official warned that the country must race against the clock to bring the SARS outbreak under control within the next five weeks, otherwise the consequences will be grave.

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