Wed, Jun 04, 2003 - Page 4 News List

US virus expert pays visit to learn about SARS


A US epidemiologist said yesterday that he was very impressed by the home quarantine measures taken by Taiwan in its fight against SARS.

Clarence Peters, a professor of the University of Texas Medical Branch, was invited by the Taipei City Government to personally see the nation's efforts to control the contagion.

Peters lauded the government for its treatment of those who stay in home quarantine, citing the service of supplying meals, collecting garbage and giving them NT$5,000 as a reward for adhering to their quarantine.

He also agreed with meting out stiff penalties for those who break quarantine regulations, adding that such an approach should be followed by other countries.

Peters, who has been involved with viral research for 30 years and has first-hand experience with several highly virulent viruses such as Ebola, said at a news conference that he is not in Taipei to provide suggestions, but to observe and learn.

He said that the world knows too little about SARS, and that the world's research spending on the coronavirus, a form of which is said to be behind SARS, over the past decade has been far lower than the damage caused by SARS in one day in Asia. The new virus has indeed caused a great impact in Asia, he added.

Although about 30,000 people in this country have been quarantined since the first SARS case because of possible contact with SARS patients, fewer than 200 have developed symptoms. Peters believes the imposition of mass quarantines is still necessary.

Peters also said that the government's national temperature-taking campaign is a low-cost, effective and highly feasible approach toward fighting SARS, which he said would detect those individuals who have a fever.

As the development of SARS is not yet clear, he stressed that the world should work together to track the possible changes in the virus, adding that Taiwan and the world community must work closely with China to contain the virus.

He cited as an example that the US and Russia cooperated during the Cold War to combat small pox, with a slogan, "man must stand together."

Peters visited Taipei Municipal Chunghsin Hospital in the afternoon to observe its SARS-fighting mechanisms. He will also visit the Department of Health, the Cabinet's SARS Prevention and Relief Committee members, the Center for Disease Control and Academia Sinica before leaving June 13.

Meanwhile, the SARS Prevention and Relief Committee said that from the first SARS case in mid-March, the number of people who have stayed in home quarantine has reached more than 90,000, and it expected the number would break 100,000 in the next two days. These figures include both those who have come into contact with SARS patients and those who have arrived from SARS-affected countries.

Given the government's quarantine compensation of NT$5,000 per person, it has been estimated that the total cost will hit NT$500 million.

The committee reported that the number of people who are still in quarantine only totaled 9,658, or the first time the number was lower than 10,000 since the outbreak of the atypical pneumonia.

The committee also announced the inauguration of four more hospitals exclusively for treatment of patients with the disease yesterday.

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