A couple with dangerous strains of tuberculosis (TB) who flew to China last month despite a travel ban is now staying at a hospital in Kinmen ahead of their return to Taiwan proper, a Department of Health (DOH) official said yesterday.
Chou Chih-hao (
Lee, who has multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB), and his wife, who has open TB, were escorted to Kinmen from the coastal Chinese city of Xiamen on a ferry on Monday night. They are now staying in a quarantine ward on the island.
Chou said the Lees are in good condition, adding that the department will arrange for them to return to Taiwan proper soon and that the CDC is making arrangements for their flight back home.
The Lees defied a travel ban by flying to Nanjing via Hong Kong on July 21 to visit their son, daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law's parents. The CDC, after learning of the news last Wednesday, asked Chiu to travel to China the same day to help track them down.
Chiu arrived in Nanjing on Thursday and met with Jiangsu Province epidemic control officials. The Lees were tracked down on Friday and sent to a hospital in Nanjing.
In addition to MDR-TB, Lee also has diabetes and high blood pressure. After tests conducted at the hospital, it was established that Lee was in good condition and was capable of being transported to Taiwan.
The Lees were taken by ambulance to Xiamen from Nanjing on Sunday and put on a ferry to Kinmen on Monday.
Chou said that "we are now at ease," noting that the Lees will be taken to one of the five hospitals in Taiwan that specializes in treating TB patients. He added that out of respect for the couple's privacy, he cannot divulge which hospital they will be taken to.
Asked who should foot the huge bill for tracking down the couple and bringing them back to Taiwan, Chou said that the CDC will seek financial compensation from the couple according to the law, adding that the Lees were aware of the fact that MDR-TB patients are not allowed to travel by plane.
Lee's family members also violated the epidemic control law by withholding information on their whereabouts, Chou said, adding that they will be fined.
He said that except for the cost of renting the ferry, NT$80,000, all the other costs in tracking down the couple, hospitalizing them and transporting them back to Taiwan have yet to be calculated.
Chou said that the DOH will not hesitate to seek financial compensation from the couple and that "the bill will not be footed by the public."
He further said that no one has been infected by the Lees so far, adding that Lee's son, daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law's parents, who had close contact with the Lees for several days, are now being closely monitored by Chinese health authorities.