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CDC Satisfied That New SARS Case in Taiwan Was Isolated Incident

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Taipei (dpa) - Taiwan said on Friday that U.S. health officials are convinced that the recurrence of SARS in Taiwan is an isolated case that will not result in a new outbreak of the illness which triggered widespread panic in the Asian-Pacific region earlier this year.

The Deputy Director of Taiwan's Centre for Disease Control (CDC) Shih Wen-yi, also said the World Health Organization (WHO) will not renew travel restrictions on Taiwan because it is satisfied with how officials on the island have handled the new SARS case.

Speaking to reporters in Taipei, the official said, "WHO said Taiwan has handled this SARS case properly. The CDC thinks this is an individual lab infection and has not caused community infection. So they will not impose restrictions on Taiwan," the official said.

The patient, a 44-year-old researcher at the National Defence Centre Medical Centre, was infected while touching leaking SARS samples in a Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) laboratory. He ran a fever of 38.8 Celsius when he returned home after attending a SARS seminar in Singapore and was hospitalized on Tuesday.

In the past three days, the patient's condition has been stable although doctors are trying to boost his immunity to fight lung infection.

So far, Taiwan has put 34 people who have come into contact with the patient under home isolation until December 31.

This is the second recurrence of SARS since the atypical pneumonia died out after causing 8,098 infections and 774 deaths worldwide between November 2002 and July this year.

The first recurrence was reported on September 9 in Singapore. A 27-year-old medical student became infected with SARS while handling the West Nile virus in a lab. He later recovered.

Meanwhile, health officials in Singapore said none of the 71 people under home quarantine in the city-state showed signs of SARS as of Friday, their last full day of confinement.

The 71 came in contact with the visiting Taiwanese medical researcher after returning home on December 10 from meetings with scientists in Singapore.

Five others, who were feeling sick, will remain in the Communicable Disease Centre as a precaution, she said. All of them have been diagnosed as "non-SARS patients" under assessment.

The health care system remained on alert and Changi Airport will keep up its heightened health checks on passengers from Taiwan.

In Hong Kong, seven elderly women patients were given the all-clear by doctors after officials feared the women were suffering from SARS.

Tests by medical staff at Alice Ho Miu Ling Nethersole Hospital in the Tai Po district of Hong Kong's northern New Territories showed they were free of the deadly virus.

Health department spokeswoman Diana Kam, said the women, aged between 62 and 85, had been put in an isolation ward at the hospital after developing SARS-like symptoms.

In Manila, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo assured the public the government was prepared to combat a potential resurgence of SARS.

"We are on top of the situation," she said in a statement. "The system is in place. We have never let our guard down. We have learned by experience. Screening at our international airports continues."

Arroyo added that the Department of Health (DOH) has been "strengthening health facilities for months and preparing SARS isolation rooms meeting international standards".

Copyright 2003 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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