Fri, Aug 22, 2003 - Page 4 News List

Health department takes steps to allay emerging fears about return of SARS

CNA , TAIPEI

The Department of Health yesterday tried to assuage fears that SARS would return as the weather cools, following reports that a SARS-like disease had killed six people in a nursing home in Vancouver, Canada.

Shih Wen-yi (施文儀), deputy director general of the department's Center for Disease Control, said the center had already taken the initiative to prevent a re-emergence of the disease and that the public had nothing to worry about.

The reports from Vancouver said that the disease that struck the nursing home acts like a milder version of SARS, which killed 44 people in Canada. However, officials doubt the respiratory illness is SARS.

Shih said that Taiwan has already taken the initiative in implementing SARS detection and prevention measures, adding that the likelihood of the SARS-like disease being seen in Canada appearing in Taiwan is low.

If the disease does reappear in Taiwan, it will most likely first strike those who are older and more frail, Shih said.

He said that nursing homes in Taiwan started using a health self-management program on July 15 to prevent the re-emergence of the disease.

Any nursing home residents with a fever will be sent to hospital immediately in order to prevent the spread of the disease.

Shih said that the health department had also begun random checks on 50 patients per week in the nation's hospitals, taking blood samples from those with a fever to test for dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis and SARS.

Starting Nov. 15, the checks will increase in frequency, with the health department staff checking 50 patients with a fever each day, targeting influenza and SARS especially, he said.

Between March and June, SARS killed 84 people in Taiwan.

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