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Singapore Reports Possible New SARS Outbreak - 2003-05-14

A mental hospital in Singapore has isolated 27 people in what may be a new outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, and Taiwan continues to report large jumps in new SARS infections. But in Hong Kong scientists say the outbreak is fading fast.

The Woodbridge Hospital in Singapore, a mental institute, was closed to the public after 24 patients and three nurses displayed the flu-like symptoms associated with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.

Health Minister Lim Hng Kiang called the situation a "grave concern," He said tracking those who have come into contact with Woodbridge Hospital is crucial.

"To prevent the spread further particularly to the community we have to look at the different groups that can lead to the spread," said Mr. Lim. "Fortunately we had the no-visitor rule since April 29. … The risk of visitors being infected is less here."

If the new cases are confirmed as SARS, it will end hopes that the city-state's outbreak is over. Singapore, which has a total of 205 cases and 25 deaths, had gone at least 15 days without any new infections.

Taiwan has passed Singapore in the past few days and now has the third largest number of infections in the world.

About 18 new cases were reported, bringing Taiwan's total to more than 230. The death toll rose by at least one to reach 31.

Some of the new cases were reported at a hospital in the southern Taiwanese city of Koahsiung, meaning the disease appears to have spread to a completely new region.

Hong Kong reported nine new cases - higher than on the previous few days, but still in single digits.

Hong Kong has reported almost 1,700 cases in total, of which 227 people died.

Experts released a report suggesting the city's SARS outbreak would soon fade away.

Doctors at the Chinese University of Hong Kong say statistical modeling of the outbreak shows there should be no new local transmissions of SARS by next month.

The doctors said the risk of a new outbreak from outside Hong Kong remains high, however.

Nationwide, China reported 55 new cases and five new deaths. It now has a total of 5,124 cases and 267 deaths, and estimates the economic costs of SARS to be $54 million.

Worldwide more than 7,500 people have been afflicted with SARS of whom about 585 have died.