Thu, May 29, 2003 - Page 1 News List

SARS cases break 600 mark as WHO gives good news

MISTAKE A WHO spokesman who was criticized by DOH chief Chen Chien-jen over his alleged assessment of the SARS situation here said he was was misquoted by the media

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

Although probable SARS cases broke 600 and five new deaths were reported yesterday, the World Health Organization (WHO) and Taiwanese health officials announced that the epidemic is coming under control nationwide.

"The trend of new cases has been declining," Lee Ming-liang (李明亮), co-chairman of the committee, quoted Dick Thompson, a WHO spokesman, as saying.

The WHO, in its Tuesday report on SARS, quoted a WHO official in Taiwan as saying that important strides had been made in strength-ening hospital infection control and contact tracing.

Listing the efforts health officials have implemented to contain the disease, the WHO said "these efforts are beginning to bear fruit."

"The situation in Taiwan is expected to improve gradually in the coming days and weeks," the WHO report said.

Thompson -- who drew a strong response from Director-General of the Department of Health (DOH) Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) on Tuesday -- had been quoted as saying that Taiwan's SARS outbreak has not peaked, clarified his remarks yesterday and said that he had been misquoted by the media.

Dr. Cathy Roth, one of the two WHO experts in Taiwan, checked with the organization's headquarters in Geneva on Tuesday after Lee asked why Thompson had made the comment and found that the spokesman had been misquoted.

Thompson said he could not identify the news agency because the interview was conducted by phone.

Thompson told the Taipei Times what he actually said in the interview was: "You know the peak only when you've passed it. But Taiwan has been doing all the right things."

Lee said WHO experts, who have been in Taiwan and touring hospitals over the past three weeks, are well informed of the development of the epidemic in the country.

The Cabinet's SARS prevention committee reported that as of yesterday, probable SARS cases reached 607, 11 more than the previous day's, with more than 76 percent of the probable cases originating in northern Taiwan.

Around 16 percent, or 102, of the probable cases were reported in southern Taiwan, the second most severely hit region, whereas only about 6 percent of the caseload was from the central and eastern parts of the country, the committee said.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) carried out viral tests on 467 of the probable cases and discovered that only 1 percent of the cases tested positive for the coronavirus, the causative agent of SARS.

Another study by the CDC revealed that other viruses such as chlamydia and mycoplasma were showing up in tests taken by probable cases.

Meanwhile, apart from establishing fever clinics in nearby hospitals, the committee is planning to set up fever clinics in every local town and village.

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