Hong Kong health authorities are stepping up efforts to control a mysterious illness that has sickened more than 1,000 people worldwide and killed more than 60 others. Robert Raffaele tells us, officials now believe the pneumonia-like virus may be more contagious than first believed.
Hong Kong health authorities have quarantined all the residents of the densely populated Amoy Gardens public housing complex. More than 200 residents have been diagnosed with, or are suspected of carrying, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS. That’s one third of the total number of cases in the territory.
Officials say the high number in one location suggests the disease is airborne, rather than spread by sneezing, coughing, or close contact. Hong Kong’s Health Secretary described the situation.
YEOH ENG-KIONG, HONG KONG HEALTH SECRETARY
“The number of new cases has actually stabilized to about 20 or so each day. But because such a large number of people were infected in this outbreak that anyone could potentially cause another subsequent outbreak, as demonstrated in Amoy Gardens. That’s why we have measures that are trying to contain the problem in Amoy Gardens. The more vigorous we are, the less it will spread.”
Medical teams have been giving quarantined residents government-provided food, such as noodles and rice.
In Singapore, screening tests have been reinforced at one hospital after an increasing number of patients began showing signs of the illness. Schools are closed, and authorities have quarantined nearly one thousand people.
Authorities in Canada’s largest city Toronto have declared a health emergency, after a fourth person died. Some 100 other probable cases have been identified, including a teacher who recently returned from Asia. Wayne McDonald is with New Brunswick’s Health Department.
WAYNE MCDONALD, NEW BRUNSWICK HEALTH DEPARTMENT
“This individual had traveled to China through Hong Kong, and developed symptoms that met the suspect case definition. I will hasten to add that the individual is at home, is doing fine, and is recovering.”
Most of the Toronto cases are health workers at two hospitals, who became sick after treating many of the first patients to be diagnosed. Canadian authorities have advised thousands of potential carriers to quarantine themselves at home for 10 days, the incubation period of the virus. So far, no antiviral drugs have been effective in treating patients.