Thu, May 22, 2003 - Page 2 News List

DOH touts its ability to trace virus

AGENCIES , TAIPEI

The infection sources of most SARS cases in Taiwan have been traced, and the ratio of success in identifying the sources of SARS infections is higher than in other SARS-affected areas, a Department of Health official said yesterday.

Su Yi-jen (蘇益仁), director-general of the Center for Disease Control, made the remarks on the sidelines of a press conference of the Executive Yuan's SARS Prevention and Relief Committee.

Su said that the sources of infection for the majority of SARS cases can be traced, giving the example of cases at Jen Chi Hospital being traced back to Taipei Municipal Hoping Hospital; and the source of Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital cases being traced to a patient from Jen Chi.

He said that there are only a few SARS cases where the sources of infection have not been traced, noting that this may be due to the patients withholding some information from medical personnel.

The percentage of SARS cases where the sources of infection cannot be traced is between 3 percent and 5 percent, which Su said is much lower than in other SARS-affected areas such as Canada, Hong Kong, China and Singapore.

In related news, the pink identification bracelet used for newborn girls in Taiwan has a new function now: to expose SARS victims who sneak out from home quarantine.

Tainan Mayor Hsu Tien-tsai (許添財), yesterday introduced the latest to prevent people from breaking home quarantine.

"With the bracelet on, everyone can tell when a person who is supposed to stay home is breaking the quarantine order if he is found outdoors," he said.

To prevent the quarantined from taking off the bracelet, a seal would be stamped at the seam of the bracelet buckle, he said, adding once the bracelet is opened, the seal will break and the health authorities will know the bracelet has been taken off without official permission.

To ensure the success of the new measure, the city government offers a cash reward of NT$10,000 to anyone reporting a person weabracelet the pink bracelet outdoors to the health authorities, Hsu said.

An offender could be fined from NT$60,000 to NT$300,000 or face a jail term of up to two years, he said.

City officials said the bracelet idea is not only effective to discourage offenders, but also economical.

It can save the government a great deal of money in electronic tracers and video phones that would have been used to keep track of people under home quarantine.

Taiwan has been declared by the World Health Organisation as the area with the fastest-growing outbreak of the deadly epidemic.

A total of 19,195 people are currently under home quarantine, but a recent sample check of 780 people showed that 15 percent of them had broken their quarantine orders, the Department of Health said.

As of yesterday, more than 260 people have been slapped with a fine of NT$60,000 each for breaking the order.

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