Wed, Dec 24, 2003 - Page 4 News List

Contamination prompts stricter SARS measures

DISEASE CONTROL The government has reacted to the infection of a researcher by forcing workers who deal with the disease to wait 10 days before leaving Taiwan

By Joy Su  /  STAFF REPORTER

Health officials have strengthened SARS-prevention measures, requiring healthcare workers and SARS researchers to have not had contact with SARS patients and not have handled virus cultures for 10 days before leaving the country.

The new rules come in response to a recent SARS case, in which a medical researcher contracted the virus while handling waste in a laboratory.

The SARS Committee Contingency Task Force said that researchers and healthcare workers will be required to provide verification by employers guaranteeing that there had been no contact with any virus cultures or affected patients for a 10-day period.

A total of 39 healthcare workers from the Taipei Municipal Hoping Hospital and Taipei's Tri-Service General Hospital have assisted in the treatment of the SARS patient in question, a lieutenant colonel surnamed Chan (詹). The Center for Disease Control (CDC) said that each of the 39 healthcare workers will be prevented from leaving Taiwan until 10 days had expired since the last time they had contact with him.

The CDC said that none of the healthcare workers had reported fever or any other symptoms.

The task force's decision follows widespread media criticism directed at the biosafety standards at SARS research facilities. Chan had contracted SARS in a maximum-security laboratory.

However, an investigation said that Chan contracted SARS because he had not abided by stan-dard operating procedures. It said that Chan contracted the virus while removing contaminated waste without protective gloves.

The CDC also updated the current SARS watch list, announcing that only Chan's father and wife were still being required to perform self-health checks. They are set to be taken off the list at midnight on Dec. 26 if no symptoms develop.

* Healthcare workers and researchers involved with SARS patients or SARS research must wait 10 days starting from the time of last contact before leaving the country

* Healthcare workers and researchers in contact with SARS patients or SARS research must provide documentation from employers verifying that no contact has taken place in that time

Source: Center for disease control


Chan is also well on his way to recovery, according to a CDC press release. Breathing difficulties, diarrhea and other symptoms have eased. Chest X-rays were also said to have shown significant improvement. The patient was said to have been able to leave his bed and remove his respirator on occasion.

The task force yesterday also reported on expenditure and budgeting for SARS prevention. It said that at the end of last month, a total of NT$18.3 billion of the special NT$50 billion budget allocated to SARS prevention had been spent.

In other health news, the National Health Insurance Bureau announced that traditional paper insurance cards will no longer be accepted commencing Jan. 1 next year.

Clinics, hospitals and healthcare providers will be required to switch to the new Java Card when processing health insurance. The new integrated-circuit technology enables a patient's medical and insurance history to be stored in a microprocessor on the card.

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