Wed, May 14, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Prognosis is still good, legislator says

By Sandy Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

A PFP legislator with a medical background gave an upbeat assessment of Taiwan's SARS situation yesterday, saying that the outbreak should be contained by end of next month.

"If, from this point on, the government does not commit any serious mistakes in its control and prevention work against the SARS virus, the SARS epidemic situation should be contained within four to six weeks," said PFP Legislator Kao Ming-chien (高明見).

Kao is a former medical director at National Taiwan University Hospital in Taipei and the deputy convener of the PFP's prevention and control task force.

He said he based his prediction on what he knows about the natural progression of epidemics, as well as how he has seen people in Taiwan paying more attention to personal hygiene.

The World Health Organization last Sunday estimated that Taiwan should be able to contain the outbreak in about seven weeks.

At the same time, Lee Ming-liang (李明亮), head of Taiwan's SARS prevention command center, estimated that the plague could be brought under control in less than seven weeks -- if the nation does not see any mass transmissions in medical institutions and if the public cooperates with the government's prevention measures.

Kao said the WHO's pessimistic assesment of Taiwan's situation came from the organization's lack of confidence in Taiwan after watching news reports here.

TV channels recently broadcast pictures of bottle-throwing protests by some doctors and nurses at the Taipei Municipal Hoping Hospital after the hospital was sealed off on April 24.

But, Kao said, Taiwan's situation is not that different from the trends shown in Hong Kong and Singapore.

"It started with the healthcare workers who contracted the SARS virus in the hospitals from their patients which later spread to become community transmission before the epidemic was contained three to four weeks after that," Kao said.

Kao called on the government to quickly implement the budget from the NT$50 billion fund which the legislature recently approved. The fund is to be used for subsidizing SARS-related medical expenses and to mitigate the economic impact on industries.

Citing examples that many hospitals are now short of surgical masks and the like, Kao said that the government should swiftly use the budget to provide needed and urgent supplies and protective clothing for the medical personnel fighting on the frontlines in the SARS battle.

"The government ought not to wait till June, when the SARS epidemic has started to die down, and then use the budget," he said.

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