Taiwan’s CDC Expands Personal Health Check

After several months with no new SARS infections reported worldwide, a Taiwanese medical researcher has contracted the disease while working in a lab. Singaporean health officials have ordered 70 people in that country into quarantine because they came in contact with the Taiwanese man during a recent medical conference in Singapore. In Taiwan, national health officials are ordering increased observation of all people who have had contact with the victim. Earlier this year, hundreds of people in Singapore and thousands in Taiwan were quarantined after SARS first emerged as a major public health threat. – YaleGlobal

Taiwan's CDC Expands Personal Health Check

Joy Su
Friday, December 19, 2003

The man diagnosed on Wednesday as having SARS had been in contact with more people than previously thought, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) said yesterday.

The CDC said that two colleagues who had traveled to Singapore with the SARS patient, medical researcher Lieutenant-Colonel Chan, had immediately departed for the US upon returning to Taiwan.

The two colleagues, also medical researchers, have been asked to cut short their stay and will return to Taiwan today.

While CDC Deputy Director Shih Wen-yi (施文儀) did not confirm their location in the US, he said the US Centers for Disease Control (USCDC) and Prevention was in control of the situation.

The CDC also added names yesterday to the list of people who had come in close contact with Chan before he was quarantined, bringing the total number of individuals required to perform personal health checks to 34. The CDC's personal health-check policy requires that temperature readings be taken twice a day to watch for signs of fever.

According to Shih, investigation has revealed that Chan had visited a clinic in his hometown of Hsintien, Taipei County, on Dec. 11 after having come down with a fever on Dec. 10.

Shih reported that in addition to the five colleagues who had traveled with Chan and his family members, 10 people associated with the clinic are now being asked to perform personal health checks for a period of 10 days.

The driver who had taken Chan home from CKS Airport has also been added to the list.

The CDC is asking 14 passengers who sat near Chan on China Airlines flight CI-662 back to Taiwan to perform the health checks.

Four foreign passengers who sat next to Chan on the flight -- three from the US and one from Singapore -- have left the country and have yet to be tracked down by the CDC.

Shih said the CDC will make public the names of the passengers if it fails to locate them in the next few days.

Singapore's Ministry of Health has reported that the 70 individuals who might have come in contact with Chan at the medical conference in Singapore have been quarantined.

Chang Shan-chwen (張上淳), director of the northern region of the Infection Prevention Medical Care Network, said the chances of an outbreak were minimal. He said the incubation period of SARS is from two to seven days and that none of those who were in close contact with Chan have exhibited any symptoms, even though Chan first reported fever on Dec. 10. He cautioned, however, that a few of those being monitored by the CDC had not yet passed the seven-day mark.

New prevention policies in the area of public transportation are also being implemented.

Temperature readings must be taken before boarding international and domestic flights and bus trips longer than one hour in duration.

Trains, the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system and passenger ships are exempt from mandatory temperature-reading policies due to the short duration of the trips.

Meanwhile, samples were sent yesterday to World Health Organization (WHO) affiliate laboratories at the USCDC and Japan's National Institute of Infectious Diseases for reconfirmation of the patients' SARS status.

Shih said there was a possibility that the three USCDC officials who had been sent to help with cases of tuberculosis at the Cheng Hsin Rehabilitation Medical Center on Dec. 9 might extend their stay in Taiwan and aid in handling the SARS situation.

Academia Sinica President Lee Yuan-tseh (李遠哲) expressed confidence in the government's and Taipei Municipal Hoping Hospital's policies in preventing an outbreak.

"Even if there is another SARS outbreak, the situation will not be too serious because Hoping Hospital is prepared. Everyone can relax," he said.

Copyright © 1999-2003 The Taipei Times.

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