Wed, Jul 23, 2003 - Page 4 News List

`SARS' is wrong term: doctor

MEDICAL CORP A military doctor who is about to receive a medal from the minister of defense said that `SARS' should be called `Chinese pneumonia'


A military doctor yesterday said SARS should have been called "Chinese pneumonia" because of it originated in China, but that that term was avoided for political reasons.

Colonel Chang Feng-yi (張峰義), a department chief at the Tri-Service General Hospital, said "Chinese pneumonia" was replaced by "SARS" early on to avoid causing any cross-strait problems.

Chang denied, however, speculations that the deadly disease might have been a biological agent launched against Taiwan by China.

"There is no evidence to show that China might have developed the SARS virus. China suffered a great number of deaths because of the disease. It does not make sense for it to kill its own people to launch a biological war against Taiwan," he said.

Chang made the remarks yesterday in private after a regular press conference of the Ministry of National Defense (MND). He attended the press conference to explain how he and other military medical personnel combated SARS between April and May.

Outside the military, there have been calls to the government from legislators and medical doctors to rename SARS as "Chinese pneumonia."

Even Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) had spoken of the name of "Chinese pneumonia" in public for several times. She is reported to have implied that the disease was the work of China. The military has been publicly silent on the issue, but in the circle of military doctors, a consensus has been reached.

Chang is among a group of military medical personnel who have been selected to receive medals from Minister of National Defense Tang Yao-ming (湯曜明) for having contributed to the containment of the contagion.

A defense official said the military's contribution to the battle against SARS have been recognized by the public, but he said what appears in hindsight to have been a success was actually pandemonium.

"Before the outbreak of the disease, we were convinced that the military could rely on civilians for the provision of necessary materials and manpower assistance as needed in a time of emergency," the official said.

"But ... the civilians -- mainly medical personnel -- were unable to cooperate with the military. Quite a number of them were quick to run away, leaving all the responsibilities to the military," he said.

"The military managed to keep the situation under control mainly because of its strict demands of obedience from personnel participating in the anti-SARS campaign," he said.

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