Mon, Dec 29, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Health authorities step up temperature checks

DISEASE PREVENTION After a suspected SARS case was discovered in Guangdong, the Department of Health said temperature checks at airports could become permanent

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The reoccurrence of SARS in China has triggered stricter quarantine measures at Taiwan's international airports, and temperature checks on all incoming passengers might become an annual occurrence, health officials said yesterday.

Officials of the Center for Disease Control added that the possibility of another SARS epidemic could not be ruled out.

Rules that took force on Saturday evening mean that any passenger arriving with a fever will be transferred directly to a hospital for further examination.

In response to the discovery of a suspected SARS case in China, the CDC yesterday sought advice from public health experts from National Taiwan University Hospital, the National Health Research Institutes, the Taipei City Government and the Tri-Service General Hospital.

"Before the real cause of the sickness is determined, maintaining a high standard of epidemic prevention in Taiwan remains necessary," Chang Shan-chwen (張上淳), director of the northern region of the Infection Prevention Medical Care Network, said at a press conference yesterday.

CDC Deputy Director Shih Wen-yi (施文儀) said the case in Guangdong might not be the only one in China and Taiwan's strict epidemic prevention measures were necessary to ensure public health.

"Having regular temperature checks at international airports could be possible, if SARS is confirmed as an endemic disease that strikes certain areas annually," Shih said.

So far, the World Health Organization has not confirmed that the suspected case reported in Guangdong is a probable one.

Shih said regular temperature checks at international airports also help prevent other diseases, including malaria, dengue fever, and bacillus dysentery, from entering the country.

To prevent a public panic, Shih said, the development of drugs and vaccines in Taiwan would be speeded up.

Ho Mei-shang (何美鄉), an associate research fellow at the Institute of Biomedical Sciences of Academia Sinica, said that tracing sources of the virus, which led to the suspected case in Guangdong, could help identify if SARS had already become an endemic disease.

"If the patient had no contact with animals and the virus was actually from other people, then SARS might have become an endemic disease, which could be discovered not only in Guangdong but also elsewhere," Ho said.

An endemic disease is constantly present to a greater or lesser degree in people of a certain class or in people living in a particular location.

CDC officials yesterday urged doctors at local levels around the nation to transfer all patients with fevers to special fever stations established for SARS prevention.

Meanwhile, Taiwanese residents who plan to travel to China in the near future are recommended to keep hand-washing lotion available at all times and to monitor body temperatures for 10 days after returning to Taiwan.

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