Sun, Jul 06, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Experts, officials warn public to stay on SARS alert

By Debby Wu  /  STAFF REPORTER

As the nation celebrated Taiwan's removal from the World Health Organization's (WHO) list of SARS-affected areas, the government and experts warned the public yesterday against lowering its guard and advised everyone to continue SARS-prevention measures.

Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou(馬英九), attending a movie promotion yesterday, took time out to remind city residents to take their temperatures everyday.

Taipei City Bureau of Health Director Chang Heng (張珩) and National Taiwan University Hospital Dean of the Department of Infectious Diseases Chang Shang-chwen (張上淳) also advised the public to remain alert and at the ready.

"When you think it [the epidemic] will come, it won't; but when you think it won't come, it will," said Chang Heng.

Chang said that although everyone should be grateful for Taiwan's removal, it was still necessary to remain watchful, adding that the outbreak within Taipei Municipal Hoping Hospital was allowed to happen because hospital staff were not on their guard.

"We should internalize certain habits such as taking temperatures and wearing facemasks," Chang said. "Taking your temperature is not a difficult thing to do, and it helps you to keep the track of your condition.

"Wearing facemasks when one suffers from a cold, cough or sneezes can prevent the spread of diseases to others," Chang said.

Chang Shang-chwen said that it was important for the public to keep a record of their travel and contact histories. Chang said that China was a big country that contained many sorts of strange diseases and travelers take care when visting.

"If one shows symptoms of illness or fever after returning from overseas travel, one should seek treatment right away," Chang said. "It is also necessary for one to inform the doctor clearly of one's travel and contact history, so that the doctor can make a diagnosis as soon as possible. The patient should not cover up certain facts in fear of being quarantined."

"The public should also avoid hospital-shopping and unnecessary visits to their families in the hospital to reduce the chances of spreading diseases around," he said.

As of yesterday, there had been 674 probable SARS cases in Taiwan with 84 deaths and 28 patients still in hospital.

According to the Department of Health, the first case in Taiwan appeared on Feb. 25 when a Taiwanese businessman surnamed Chin returned from China with the virus.

The WHO started to produce its list of SARS "affected areas" on March 13, and Taiwan was listed by WHO as an affected area on March 18.

The in-hospital outbreak in Taipei Municipal Hoping Hospital in late April marked the darkest and lowest point in the battle against SARS.

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