Thu, May 22, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Hong Kong hotel given a clean bill of health


A Hong Kong man who stayed at a five-star hotel early this month has been confirmed as a SARS patient, and health officials said yesterday they have been tracking down other guests but found no evidence of a new outbreak.

The 40-year-old man's family has been quarantined and officials said there are no traces of the SARS virus at the Harbor Plaza Hong Kong hotel, which has been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

SARS took hold in Hong Kong after an outbreak in late February at another hotel, the Metropole, where a sick Chinese medical professor infected 16 other people. Some of them quickly spread the disease to three other places that have suffered fatal outbreaks: Canada, Vietnam and Singapore.

The man who stayed at the Harbor Plaza, in the Hung Hom area of the Kowloon peninsula, had been hospitalized early this month for diarrhea and vomiting but discharged after two days.

The Harbor Plaza is owned by companies controlled by Hong Kong's richest man, the billionaire tycoon Li Ka-shing (李嘉誠), and attracts high-profile guests. Former Chinese President Jiang Zemin (江澤民) stayed at the hotel during several official visits in recent years, though he has not been in Hong Kong since long before the SARS crisis erupted.

The man with SARS showed no symptoms of it when he checked into the hotel May 6-10 and developed a fever on May 9, said Health Department spokesman Jimmy Lee. The man did not seek hospital treatment until four days after developing the fever, and he was confirmed Saturday as having severe acute respiratory syndrome, Lee said.

The disease has infected 1,718 people in Hong Kong and killed 253, but more than 1,200 have recovered and the number of new cases has been in the single digits for more than two weeks.

Hong Kong SARS outbreak

* SARS has infected 1,718 people in Hong Kong.

* The contagion has killed 253.

* Of the infected, 1,200 have recovered.

* That means that 6.79 percent of people in Hong Kong who have contracted the atypical pneumonia have died.

Lee said that most of the other people who stayed at Harbor Plaza at the same time as the infected man have been found, and that there have been no suspected cases of the atypical pneumonia among them.

Lee said it was unclear why the man stayed at the hotel instead of returning home after he was first discharged.

"Maybe he suspected he was infected or was just afraid after staying at a hospital ward," Lee said.

The Harbor Plaza hotel said in a statement that health officials told its managers on Monday that a guest who checked out on May 10 had contracted the disease but that the hotel is safe. It said the man had ``minimal contact'' with other guests.

"Since there have been no cases found among hotel guests or staff to date, the Department of Health has given Harbor Plaza Hong Kong a clean bill of health," the hotel said.

The Health Department agreed the hotel is safe and cleansed.

Health officials yesterday began checking temperatures of travelers going to China on trains from the Hung Hom railway station. Authorities had already been screening passengers for fever.

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