Sat, May 10, 2003 - Page 3 News List

WHO and US see us differently

DOUBLE VISION Although the WHO and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have almost identical warnings, the UN body still thinks Taipei is in China

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) underlined the differences in the way they view Taiwan Thursday, as both organizationS issued new warnings against unnecessary travel to the country because of the worsening SARS epidemic.

A notice issued by the WHO on travel to Taipei referred to the city as "Taipei in Taiwan province in China," while a senior CDC official referred to Taiwan as a "country."

CDC director Julie Gerberding, in a press briefing relayed over telephone lines to reporters, was speaking about an update her organization issued Thursday that updated its May 1 travel advisory for Taiwan.

The update mentioned that the centers had retained their recommendation for "Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China."

Discussing steps being taken to fight the epidemic, Gerberding noted, "the countries that I have mentioned, Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China, are implementing extremely aggressive quarantine procedures."

The WHO, in a notice adding Taipei to a list of cities for which the UN-based global health organization is advising the postponing of non-essential travel, stated that "information about the magnitude of the SARS outbreaks in Tianjin and Inner Mongolia provinces of China, and Taipei in Taiwan Province in China, has been carefully reviewed by WHO."

The organization said in its advice, "whereby WHO recommends that people consider postponing all but essential travel, are now in effect for several areas of China, namely Beijing, Hong Kong, Guangdong, Inner Mongolia, Shanxi, Taipei and Tianjin."

Aside from that, the advice tendered by both the CDC and WHO were virtually identical, reflecting the heightening concern over the spread of SARS in Taiwan over the past weeks.

"People planning elective or nonessential travel to Taiwan may wish to postpone their trips until further notice," an interim travel advisory by the CDC said. "This decision is based on the magnitude and scope of the evolving outbreak, including a rapid increase in suspected and probable cases."

The advisory also noted Taiwan's actions to stem the international spread of the disease, including mandatory 10-day quarantines for travelers from infected areas, and suspension of issuing of visas for people from those areas.

It also noted that the centers are distributing health-alert notices about SARS to people traveling from Taiwan to the US.

Meanwhile, the US has enhanced its aid package to China to help Beijing fight its SARS crisis. The State Department announced that the agency that runs America's foreign aid program has provided US$500,000 in emergency funds to help China bolster its strained public-health system.

"The money is to be used by the Red Cross Society of China to purchase protective gear and other medical consumables including thermometers and protective goggles, gowns and masks to protect against SARS, department spokesman Richard Boucher said.

That effort will include a multi-year effort to expand collaboration in epidemiological training and the development of greater laboratory capacity in China.

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