Sat, May 24, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Officials see hope in falling rates

EPIDEMIC The Center for Disease Control showed statistics it said proved the situation among health workers was improving, boding well for attempts to control the disease

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) expressed optimism about controlling SARS transmission in hospitals yesterday when presenting data showing a gradual drop in the infection rates of health workers in the four weeks to last Saturday.

Center Director Su Yi-jen (蘇益仁) said knowledge about the disease and the implementation of preventive measures had contributed to the drop in infection rates among health workers.

Su defined health workers as doctors, nurses, X-ray technicians and those who conduct tests in laboratories.

The center's data showed that during the week starting April 20, 32.8 percent of all probable SARS cases nationwide were health workers.

The percentage fell to 9.3 between in the week beginning April 27, rose to 11.1 in the following week and finally dropped to 3.7 in the week that ended last Saturday.

The peak of SARS infections among health workers appeared between April 20 and 26, Su said.

"Most of the health workers contracting SARS during this period were from Taipei Municipal Hoping Hospital," Su said.

The second highest peak of health workers' infection, which appeared between May 4 and 10, coincided with the SARS outbreak in Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Su said.

Health workers contracting SARS between May 11 and 17, Su said, came chiefly from Kaohsiung Medical University Hospital with a few from other hospitals.

"The infection rate among health workers is the most important index in evaluating hospital infection control. I hope the rate can fall to zero by next weekend," Su said.

According to Su, the infection rate among health workers at Hong Kong's Prince of Wales Hospital, which handled most of the territory's SARS patients at the onset of the outbreak, reached 70 percent of total SARS cases in early March.

"However, the infection rate in the hospital fell to zero around April 20. Now, about a month later, Hong Kong is only reporting sporadic probable SARS cases," Su said.

Hospital infection is regarded as being under control if the infection rate is zero, Su said.

According to Hong Kong's pattern, Su said, if Taiwan can bring the infection rate to zero next week, the nation can expect to contain the epidemic in four or five weeks.

Su also said 95 percent of the health workers who contracted SARS did so because they did not know much about the patients they were treating.

"Only a very small handful of medical workers got infected after they were informed of their patients' condition," Su said.

Calling hospital infection control the most important task in containing the outbreak, Su said several measures must be taken to ensure that patients who apparently recover from SARS do not spread the disease once they are discharged.

"Hospitals must check their temperature and perform chest X-rays. After being discharged, the patients have to stay under home isolation for 10 days and are prohibited from going to other hospitals," Su said.

Meanwhile, Su warned all hospitals to check all patients' health- insurance cards to see if they had recently visited other hospitals.

Another measure to protect hospitals is create special clinics nearby hospitals to screen people with fevers. People with a fever will be required to stay in the clinics for two to three days to ensure they don't have SARS, Su said.

If the patients are proved to be free of SARS, they will be given treatment in hospitals as necessary. Patients suspected of contracting SARS will receive special treatment in appointed hospitals, Su said.

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