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WHO: More Tests Needed on Suspected SARS Case - 2003-09-09


Experts say more tests are needed to determine if a Singapore man who has tested positive for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome does in fact have the disease. If he does have the disease, it would be the first known new SARS case in at least two months.

The World Health Organization on Tuesday said further tests are necessary to accurately diagnose a man who tested positive for the SARS virus in Singapore. The U.N. health agency warns that diagnostic tests often render inaccurate readings - or what is known as false-positive results.

"At this stage we're treating it as a suspected case, a perplexing case but we're not treating it as a probable SARS," says Peter Cordingley, the WHO spokesman in Manila.

If confirmed as a SARS case, the man, a hospital lab technician, would be the first new case in the city in four months. He also would be the first known case worldwide in about two months.

The WHO declared Singapore SARS-free on May 31. However, the city, which reported 238 infections between March and May of this year, continues to strictly monitor people showing SARS-like symptoms such as fever.

Doctors say the man has displayed fever and rash but none of the other symptoms associated with SARS. One important characteristic found in most SARS patients is swollen lung tissue, which causes pneumonia.

Mr. Cordingley says the Singapore man has not traveled outside the country recently and local health officials have tracked down people who have been in contact with him. None have displayed signs of illness.

The disease first caught the attention of the media when it spread from southern China to Hong Kong and was carried overseas in March of this year. In the months that followed, SARS infected about eight- thousand people in more than 30 countries. About nine hundred SARS patients died.

The WHO and many governments warned travelers to postpone visits to affected areas, including Hong Kong, Singapore, mainland China and Taiwan. As a result, the tourism industry in the region plunged.

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