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Egypt, Saudi Arabia Vigilant Against Spread of SARS - 2003-04-29

Egypt and Saudi Arabia are increasing their efforts to prevent Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome from spreading to their countries. The Egyptian Health Ministry has ordered that passengers arriving from several high-risk countries for SARS, be examined for symptoms of the disease.

The ministry has sent a 30-person medical team to Cairo International Airport to check passengers arriving from China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Canada, all of which are popular vacation destinations for Egyptians.

Dr. Sa'id Aly Oun, the undersecretary for preventive health in Egypt, said medical personnel are being stationed throughout Egypt. Dr. Oun said strict measures have been taken at all borders to monitor travelers and detect possible SARS cases entering the country. He says anyone arriving from infected areas who shows signs of the disease will be immediately quarantined. The doctor says even those who do not test positive for SARS, but who show any symptoms will be monitored for 10 days while in Egypt.

The Egyptian Health Ministry says medical teams at ports of entry will use electronic thermometers to detect passengers who have increased body temperatures, which is one symptom of the mysterious respiratory illness that has killed more than 300 people and infected nearly 5,000 worldwide.

Egyptian health officials say there have been no reported cases of SARS is Egypt.

World Health Organization spokeswoman Christine McNab in Geneva told VOA that the while the WHO applauds the efforts being made by numerous countries to control the spread of SARS it has, only insisted that increased controls be implemented by countries currently affected by the virus. But she said any country making an effort to detect SARS will help prevent its spread.

The illness first appeared in southern China late last year.

The health ministry in Saudi Arabia is also taking extra precautions against SARS. The kingdom had already barred travelers from China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Canada from the entering the country.

Now, anyone who visited a high risk country in the previous 10 days is banned from entering Saudi Arabia regardless of what country they are coming from.

The health ministry said it notified all international airlines not to transport passengers to the kingdom coming via third countries, unless there was a 10-day lapse since the passenger had left one of the SARS-stricken nations.

Saudi Arabia says the kingdom is free of the often fatal illness.