Thu, Nov 25, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Mystery illness raises concern

HEALTH The Center for Disease Control warned people to avoid hospitals in Hong Kong for a while after four women there contracted an unidentified respiratory disease

By Wang Hsiao-wen  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) said yesterday that it will keep a close eye on a mystery respiratory illness reported at the Tuen Mun Hospital in Hong Kong.

"We will raise the SARS-prevention level if any case that is related to SARS," the center's Deputy Director Lin Ting (林頂) said yesterday.

"While we are waiting for a confirmed result, we won't elevate the anti-SARS level, nor will we impose any surveillance measures which would hamper people's liberty," Lin said, adding that there are currently no signs of a similar respiratory illness in Taiwan.

Health officials called on people traveling to Hong Kong to avoid visiting hospitals there until the disease has been identified or eradicated.

The center said it is liaising closely with Hong Kong's health authorities, which are investigating the outbreak of a respiratory infection among four women at the Tuen Mun Hospital (屯門醫院). The four patients started developing a fever and mild symptoms of upper respiratory tract infection last Saturday.

According to the center's latest information, initial tests for SARS, influenza and some types of parainfluenza virus were negative. The patients are now quarantined in normal wards and recovering from fever, the Central News Agency reported.

Although no SARS case has been reported this year, the center activated its SARS-prevention mechanism at the beginning of this month, hoping thwart any chance of a resurgence of the disease during the flu season.

Currently, all people entering Taiwan must fill out a survey form on their physical condition and medical history related to contagious diseases. Passengers arriving from China, Hong Kong and Macau are obliged to monitor their temperature for 10 days after arrival. Students and pupils with fever symptoms are advised to rest at home.

"We believe our surveillance network is comprehensive enough to spot any suspected case upon entry, and our staff is updating information in disease-prone countries on a daily basis," Lin said.

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