Sun, May 25, 2003 - Page 2 News List

WHO sends more staff to Taipei

DIRE WARNING The world health body says that continuing intensive efforts as well as a rapid injection of new resources are needed to fully contain the SARS epidemic

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Painting Taiwan's SARS outbreak as "worrisome," the World Health Organization (WHO) yesterday kept its travel warning recommendation for Taiwan in place and announced that an additional two staff members from Geneva are to arrive some time today.

Two WHO medical experts had already arrived on May 3 to provide guidance on screening people with fevers and on home quarantine. One of the experts has already left Taiwan.

The WHO reviews its travel recommendations regularly, based on the magnitude of probable SARS cases, the pattern of recent local transmission and the last dates of export of cases.

The WHO lifted its travel advisory for Hong Kong and Guangdong Province on Friday as the situation in those areas has improved significantly. Guangdong was the first place in the world to report cases of the disease last year.

As the outbreak in Taiwan and areas of China is carrying on unabated, the WHO said that continuing intensive efforts as well as a rapid injection of new resources is needed to fully contain the outbreak.

Despite the increasing number of new local SARS cases, the WHO said that it does not suggest that there has been an explosive escalation in the outbreak.

"As the backlog of pending cases is now being rapidly cleared, the daily reports should begin within days to give a more accurate picture of the evolution of the outbreak in Taiwan," it said.

The WHO also hailed the government's alacrity in reporting SARS cases to the health body.

"Since detection of its first suspected cases, Taiwan has promptly reported on the outbreak to WHO," it said.

The nation reported its first SARS case to the WHO on March 14, two days after the international health body issued a global alert about a new disease with severe respiratory symptoms.

A team from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (USCDC), organized by the WHO's Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network, arrived here on March 16 to help the government monitor the outbreak.

According to the USCDC, the number of SARS cases associated with health-care institutes will probably increase despite the government's efforts to control the contagion.

"Despite national efforts to implement extensive control measures, unrecognized cases of SARS led to a spread to other health-care facilities and community settings," the USCDC said in its latest report on Taiwan's SARS situation on its Web site yesterday.

The report summarizes epidemiologic findings of the outbreak here and describes the impact of health-care-associated transmission of the outbreak.

According to the report, the extensive outbreak here underscores the need for health-care workers to be educated in the early recognition of SARS and the prompt implementation of appropriate infection-control procedures.

"These educational efforts should be directed to health-care workers in all facilities, including smaller and nonacademic hospitals," the report said.

The report also revealed that the polymerase chain reaction (or PCR) test to detect the SARS coronavirus might not detect the virus early in the illness, and that a negative test result does not rule out the presence of the virus.

The report also stated that the median age of probable SARS patients in Taiwan was 43 years, ranging between nine months old to 91 years old. Seventy-one percent of the cases were from Taipei City and Taipei County, the nation's largest metropolitan region.

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