Wed, May 07, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Mystery SARS case troubles doctors in disease front line

CNA , TAIPEI

The death of a Ministry of Transportation and Commun-ications official is a troubling development in the battle against severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), an infectious-disease specialist from National Taiwan University Hospital said yesterday.

Chou Chi-hui (周啟輝), chief of the Landscape Esthetics Development Division of the ministry's Highway Bureau, died of SARS on Monday afternoon at the hospital.

According to Chang Shang-chun (張上淳), director of the hospital's Infectious Diseases Department, the doctors who treated Chou during his first two visits on Tuesday and Wednesday last week had trouble determining whether he had contracted SARS because there was no evidence he had come into contact with SARS patients. He had neither traveled to a SARS-affected area, nor had he visited either Taipei Municipal Hoping Hospital or Jenchi Hospital.

They now speculate that Chou might have contracted SARS during one of the many business trips he took via buses in late April.

But the unclear source of infection and the possibility Chou passed the disease onto others after he was incorrectly diagnosed was worrisome, Chang said.

According to his wife, Chou visited the hospital's emergency room twice suffering from a fever and diarrhea. Doctors twice diagnosed Chou as having a cold because he had no contact history with SARS patients.

Chou was admitted to the hospital Friday, by which time he complained of a shortness of breath. His condition quickly deteriorated as his lungs became inflamed and filled with fluid. He died from lung failure.

Chou, 42, was the first government official to die of SARS since the disease first appeared in Taiwan in mid-March.

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