No SARS reported in Taiwan patient's contacts

Dec 22, 2003 (CIDRAP News) – No more SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) cases have cropped up in the wake of the single case reported in Taiwan last week, and quarantine or self-monitoring orders for most of the patient's contacts have been lifted.

The patient, a 44-year-old military researcher identified only by his surname, Chan, was in stable condition today, according to Associated Press (AP) and other news reports from Taipei. The researcher is believed to have been exposed to the SARS virus in the laboratory where he was studying it.

The Taiwan Department of Health said 34 people were under "self-initiated health monitoring" last week because of contact with the patient. Twenty of those people were released from monitoring Dec 19, and another 13 were due to be released Dec 20. Two people, the wife and father of the patient, remained on a watch list for SARS today, according to an Agence France Presse (AFP) report from Taipei.

In Singapore, where the Taiwanese man had attended a meeting just before he fell ill Dec 10, the Ministry of Health said six contacts of the patient were ill, but all had tested negative for SARS. The six had been admitted to the Singapore Communicable Disease Center, the ministry reported in a Dec 19 news release. Their illnesses were identified as conditions other than SARS, and polymerase chain reaction tests for the SARS virus were negative.

"All other contacts of the SARS patient remain well," the ministry's statement said. Last week the ministry had said 70 contacts of the Taiwanese patient were under home quarantine orders. In view of the 10-day SARS incubation period, those orders were to be lifted at midnight Dec 19, officials said. "All persons on HQO [home quarantine orders] are well and should be able to return to normal activities," the Ministry of Health said. The AFP report today said the quarantine orders were lifted on schedule.

A Dec 19 AP report said that five non-Taiwanese people who had sat near the infected man on his return flight from Singapore had been found and instructed to watch for possible SARS symptoms. The report also said two of the man's colleagues in the Ministry of Defense flew to the United States after he returned to Taiwan. The two returned to Taiwan Dec 19 and were examined at a Taipei hospital, a spokesman for the Taiwan Center for Disease Control said. The spokesman did not reveal where in the United States the pair went.

The SARS patient was strong enough today to remove breathing tubes from his nose and move around his hospital room, according to an AP report. The head of Hoping Hospital in Taipei said the man's fever had dropped and his appetite was good, the report stated.

The infected man was studying SARS at Taiwan's National Defense University. The Dec 19 AP story quoted an investigator as saying that the scientist probably was infected Dec 6 when he found a leaking trash bag in his lab and put it on a cart. The Department of Health said it would release a report on how the patient was exposed after an investigation is completed.

The sick man's father said in a television interview that the man refused to go to a hospital for 5 days after he fell ill because he didn't want to bring shame to his lab and Taiwan, according to Dec 19 news reports. "He finally agreed to go to the hospital after I threatened to kill myself," a Reuters report quoted the father as saying.

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