Fears grow visiting US expert has SARS

FOREIGN HELP: A male epidemiologist from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been hospitalized after developing some symptoms of SARS

By Chiu Yu-tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Fri, May 23, 2003 - Page 1

A visiting epidemiologist from the US was hospitalized yesterday after he began experiencing some of the symptoms of SARS, Taiwan's Center for Disease Control (CDC) said yesterday.

Center Director Su Yi-jen (蘇益仁) said Chesley Richards, who works for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (USCDC), has been advising the government on the SARS outbreak here.

Su said Richards was now in isolation at Shin Kong Wu Ho Su Memorial Hospital in Taipei.

He arrived in Taipei last Thursday from Atlanta, Georgia, via Tokyo.

On Monday, he visited several SARS-infected hospitals in Taipei, including Mackay Memorial Hospital and National Taiwan University Hospital.

On Tuesday, Su said, Richards stopped all public activities after he developed a slight fever above 38℃, muscle aches and fatigue.

On Wednesday, government tests showed that he had neither coronavirus, the virus that causes SARS, nor viruses that cause influenza.

Yesterday, his temperature remained at 38℃ and he developed a cough, Su said.

"We decided to transfer him to a quarantined ward in the hospital because he had a history of contact with SARS patents," Su said.

Last week, the epidemiologist worked closely with high-ranking health officials and medical professionals on SARS-related affairs.

Su yesterday wore a mask at yesterday's press conference, the first time he has done so. He reminded all medical professionals who had meetings with the USCDC expert to monitor their temperatures at least three times a day.

Su nevertheless said he remained optimistic about the country's ability to fight SARS because "the ship is sailing in the right direction."

"I don't think the USCDC's resolution to help Taiwan to fight SARS will be affected at all by the case," he said.

The American Institute in Taiwan said it was arranging a special plane to take Richards and another USCDC official back to the US today.

This weekend, officials said, a new team of three USCDC experts will arrive in Taipei.

The hotel where the man was staying, the Lai Lai Sheraton Taipei, will be shut down for three days while it is disinfected. Thirteen of the hotel's cleaning staff will today begin a 10-day home quarantine.

Another three members of staff and 134 people who stayed at the hotel or visited its restaurant between Monday and yesterday have begun class C prevention measures for 10 days, under which they will have to take their temperatures three times a day and wear a mask at all times.

The AIT said yesterday that a USCDC team will remain in Taiwan to assist the government in its fight against SARS.