Accessibility links

More SARS Deaths Reported in Hong Kong - 2003-05-05

Turning now to the latest on Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome or SARS. The establishment of quarantine centers has sparked riots in two towns in an eastern Chinese province. Witnesses say villagers smashed windows at a government office and attacked officials.

In Hong Kong, officials announced the lowest number of SARS deaths for a single day in several weeks. But that news comes as scientists revealed disturbing new information about the possible spread of the virus. Robert Raffaele has the latest.

Hong Kong reported three more SARS deaths on Monday. That brings the death toll to 187 in Hong Kong since March.

More than 16-hundred people there have been diagnosed with the disease, including some 300 residents at the Amoy Gardens public housing complex.

Sunday, mourners held a Taoist ceremony for the 28 residents who died. Authorities believe contaminated feces from an infected man leaked from a broken sewage pipe.

That theory appears to be supported by a new report from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Researchers say the virus can live in human waste for up to four days, and can survive on common surfaces, such as doorknobs. Doctor Mazlik Peieris is a virologist studying the outbreak.

“This virus can survive on surfaces outside the body for a long time for at least one day. In that respect, it’s far tougher than many respiratory viral infections. In fact, it’s even tougher than the coronavirus, that causes the common cold.”

Monday, Hong Kong’s leader, Tung Chee-hwa, said he believes the WHO’s travel advisory in the region will be lifted, if the number of new cases continues to decline.

In China, 9 new SARS deaths have been reported, including three in Beijing. Fourteen thousand residents are now under quarantine.

Sunday, Chinese Premier Wen Jiaboa visited two Beijing universities, where students have been quarantined for ten days.

Meanwhile, researchers offered some encouraging news. They say the use of a common disinfectant on surfaces, such as in airplanes, can kill the virus within five minutes.

Doctor Klaus Stohr of the W.H.O. says those precautions can be critical.

“What is important is to keep on doing hand washing and disinfecting both in hospitals as well as in households with SARS patients.”

In Taiwan, social workers were dispatched to areas frequented by homeless people, after reports that two homeless people showed symptoms of SARS.

Social workers checked the temperatures of the homeless, and two people were sent to the hospital with symptoms of the illness.

Temperature checks were mandatory for customers at Taiwan’s largest department store, which reopened Monday after undergoing a thorough cleaning. More than 70 staffers at the Sogo department store were quarantined, because of the SARS scare.

At least eight people have died in Taiwan. Nearly 200 others are believed to have SARS.

Worldwide, the virus has killed more than 460 people, and infected 6300 others.