The Department of Health yesterday "initially excluded" a 12-year-old girl as having contracted SARS after all the tests conducted on her appeared to be negative.
The department's report of a "highly suspicious" SARS case imported from Shanghai late Wednesday night triggered public fears of a re-emergence of the deadly disease.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) spent a hectic day hurrying to finish both SARS and flu tests on the girl yesterday.
Su Ih-jen (蘇益仁), director-general of the CDC, said the girl was likely to have been infected by bacteria.
"The CDC tested the girl's blood and throat samples. It also conducted three other SARS-related tests on her. All the results were negative," Su said.
Su added that samples collected from the girl also tested negative for influenza A, B and C.
"The CDC took the girl's excrement for further tests because tests on excrement appear to be more SARS-sensitive than those done on blood and throat samples," Su said.
The CDC will today formally confirm whether the girl was a SARS case, Su said.
The girl, surnamed Chen, is the daughter of a Taiwanese businessman based in Shanghai. She returned to Taiwan on July 5, the day the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Taiwan free from SARS.
She did not have a fever upon arrival in Taiwan. On July 7, she developed a fever and her mother brought her to a private clinic in Taipei. The clinic administered anti-fever drugs on her and her fever subsided.
However, her fever returned on July 15. The girl was again brought to a private clinic, which gave her a similar treatment to the previous one and her fever subsided temporarily.
When the girl developed a fever for the third time on July 17, her family was alarmed and brought her to National Taiwan University Hospital. At that time, the girl was coughing and X-rays showed whitening of her right lung.
The hospital's lab conducted a blood test and the result was mildly positive. The hospital suspected the girl might be infected with SARS and reported the case to the Department of Health on Wednesday at noon.
"The girl was admitted to the university hospital on July 18. The hospital gave her antibiotics and her fever completely subsided on July 21," Su said.
By yesterday, the girl had been fever-free for three days and her condition was stable, Su said.
The department's identification on Wednesday of the girl as a "highly suspected" SARS case led to the isolation of 30 people who had contact with the girl.
"Now we suggest the 30 people be freed from isolation. They only need to check their temperature twice a day for 10 days and immediately see a doctor if they develop SARS-like symptoms,'' Su said.
Although the public breathed a sigh of relief after the health department initially excluded the case, concerns about imported SARS cases from China were raised.
Although the WHO has declared all countries SARS-free, Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁), director-general of the Department of Health, urged doctors to pay special attention to fever patients from once-affected areas.
Despite continuing temperature checks at the CKS International Airport and the establishment of fever points outside hospitals, the girl was not perceived as a potential SARS carrier until she arrived at the the university hospital.
Most of the 30 people isolated were health workers, according to the CDC.