The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) yesterday listed a new SARS-like virus infection as a communicable disease that should be reported to health authorities within 24 hours.
The new disease is associated with a coronavirus and has been designated as a Category IV communicable disease, CDC Deputy Director-General Chou Jih-haw (周志浩) said.
The category includes infectious diseases such as Ebola hemorrhagic fever and yellow fever. The new virus has not been reported in Taiwan, but could threaten public health, Chou said.
Chou said experts at a CDC meeting earlier in the day concluded that the new virus, found in the Middle East, poses a “low risk” to Taiwan for the time being.
However, doctors who treat patients believed to be infected with the new virus should report the cases to the CDC within 24 hours, he said.
The coronavirus belongs to the same family as the one that caused SARS, which emerged in China in 2002 and killed about 800 people around the world.
The new SARS-like virus has been confirmed in two people so far — a Saudi man who has since died and a 49-year-old patient from Qatar who had traveled to Saudi Arabia recently, the WHO has said.
The Qatari patient is in critical condition and is being treated in the UK after developing the symptoms of an acute respiratory infection in Qatar, the WHO said.
The WHO issued an alert earlier in the week, urging health workers around the world to report any cases of acute respiratory infection in patients who may have traveled to Saudi Arabia or Qatar.
Chou said the CDC would send staff members to the UK to learn more about the disease.
Meanwhile, travelers to the Middle East should be cautious and should seek treatment within 10 days after their return to Taiwan if they develop symptoms of a respiratory disease, he said.