Sat, May 03, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Alleged `superspreading' couple speak out

By Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTER

``Ms. Tsao,'' who has been branded a ``superspreader'' of SARS -- along with her husband, surnamed Hsiao -- yesterday urges the public to be confident in the nation's medical system through a video played by a doctor at Taipei's Armed Forces Sungshan Hospital.

PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES

A man and wife who had been branded "superspreaders" of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) at Taipei Municipal Hoping Hospital yesterday expressed regret for any panic they had caused but urged the public to have faith in the country's health service.

"It is the rumors, rather than SARS, that have been the most unpleasant," said the man, who the hospital has identified only by his surname, Hsiao. "We hope that everybody can bravely face the challenge of SARS."

Hsiao and his wife, identified only by her surname, Tsao, spoke via a video provided by the Armed Forces Sungshan Hospital about their experiences during the past three weeks.

"SARS can be cured," Hsiao said, crossing fingers with Tsao. "We must have faith in Taiwan's medical facilities and be confident of the government."

Wearing yellow quarantine robes, they expressed their appreciation to everyone who had helped them, but also criticized some of their neighbors and the media for treating them as a "source of evil."

"We do feel guilty about bringing so many problems to the country. However, our innocent family members have been hurt and insulted by some of their neighbors," said Hsiao. "My career is now totally finished because the general public has collectively discriminated against our family."

During the video, a doctor asked whether Hsiao and Tsao would like to serve as volunteers to help contain the spread of the disease after they are discharged from the hospital. The couple promised that they would and appealed to everyone else to join the battle.

An official at the Sungshan Hospital then told the media that though Tsao and Hsiao had physically recovered, they would remain in the hospital for treatment of the mental anguish they had suffered.

"The media's description of them as the `No. 1 super spreaders' have hurt their feelings greatly and destabilized them mentally," said Lee Chien-hsien (李建賢), commander of Sungshan Hospital's SARS task force.

Tsao and Hsiao were infected with the SARS virus in late March.

In questioning after their symptoms were diagnosed as SARS, the couple said they had taken a train from Changhua County to Taipei on March 28 on which was a woman who was coughing a lot.

They fell ill on April 3 and eventually went to Hoping Hospital for treatment on April 9. They were immediately transferred to the Shin Kong Wu Ho-Su Memorial Hospital.

"Tsao recovered at the Shin Kong Hospital and Hsiao recovered after being subsequently transferred to the National Taiwan University Teaching Hospital," said Huang Fang-yen (黃芳彥), vice president of the Shin Kong Wu Ho-Su Memorial Hospital. "Now they are in good physical shape and just need more psychiatric treatment at Sungshan Hospital."

No staff at the Shin Kong Hospital have been infected with the SARS virus, proving that neither Tsao nor Hsiao are "superspreaders," Huang said.

Yeh Chin-chuan (葉金川), former director of Taipei City's Bureau of Health, who is at the Hoping Hospital to monitor the situation on behalf of the city government, agreed with Huang, saying that many cases of SARS at Hoping Hospital had never come into contact with Tsao or Hsiao.

"There are major spreaders other than Tsao and Hsiao," Yeh told medical staff yesterday.

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