Viet Nam beats SARS, China increases containment measures

April 28, 2003 (CIDRAP News) – Viet Nam has, as of today, been removed from the list of countries with local transmission of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), meaning it has successfully contained the disease, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

No new cases of SARS have been reported in Viet Nam since April 8. The 20 days since (twice the disease's incubation period) meet the standard set by WHO for determination that the outbreak is no longer spreading. The country reported 63 SARS cases and five deaths before April 8. Viet Nam was one of the initial four countries identified by WHO on March 15 as having local transmission, and it now becomes the first to have that mantle removed.

Among the reasons for successful containment of SARS in Viet Nam is the country's conscientious implementation of detection and protection measures, according to a press release from WHO. These measures include

  • Prompt identification of persons with SARS as well as tracking of their movement and contacts
  • Effective hospital isolation of SARS patients
  • Appropriate protection of medical staff treating SARS patients
  • Comprehensive identification and isolation of suspected SARS cases
  • Exit screening of international travelers
  • Timely and accurate reporting and sharing of information with other authorities and/or governments.

WHO Director-General Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland says SARS is at a stage where "we have a chance to contain it," provided other countries keep up their efforts and implement preventive measures diligently, the press release stated.

Meanwhile, in Beijing, the city hardest hit by SARS, 4,000 construction workers have, in the space of less than a week, built a hospital to safely isolate up to 1,000 suspected cases and recovering SARS patients. The facility is not designed to treat the sickest SARS patients, who may need respirators and carefully administered medications. The rapidly built, sprawling structure is located at an old Communist Party resort in the Xiaotangshan community an hour north of the city.

Also in Beijing, authorities yesterday ordered numerous public entertainment facilities (movie theaters, discos, clubs) closed to contain the spread of SARS. Even churches were suspending services, according to an Associated Press story. The city reported 8 new deaths, for a total of 56, with a total of 1,114 confirmed cases and 1,191 suspected cases as of yesterday. Elsewhere on mainland China, a ninth person died, for a total of 131.

As for other areas, Hong Kong reported 12 new deaths for a total of 133, but health officials said the number of new infections dropped to 16, the lowest number in weeks. Singapore, which has had 199 SARS cases and 23 deaths, planned to close numerous food markets and prohibit visits to public hospitals beginning today. Taiwan reported its first SARS death and placed a 10-day quarantine on travelers from SARS-affected areas. The total cases in India as of today is nine, with no deaths, according to The Hindu newspaper.

Toronto reported its 21st death from SARS yesterday, and 69 patients remain hospitalized. Tony Clement, health minister of Ontario, is traveling to Geneva to try and persuade WHO officials to change last week's advice to travelers to avoid Toronto, claiming that SARS is under control, says BBC News Online.

Thailand announced it will hold a meeting tomorrow in Bangkok for leaders from Southeast Asia and China to discuss the SARS outbreak, according to ABC News Online.

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