Researchers in Hong Kong have unraveled new clues as to how and why health care workers treating SARS patients continue to get sick despite special precautions. The revelations come as Hong Kong reports a slightly higher number of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome cases.
Researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong says the danger of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome transmission between patient and hospital staff still exists despite tough prevention measures.
Sydney Chung, the dean of medicine at CUHK, says so-called "invisible SARS patients" pose the risk.
Such patients, says Dr. Chung, do not display typical SARS symptoms like fever and a dry cough. They are therefore not isolated and often admitted to the hospital for other conditions.
He also says asymptomatic SARS patients have recently infected hospital staff in non-SARS wards.
He says medical staff in SARS wards are continuing to be vigilant and that transmission in those wards is going down. At least four Hong Kong hospital workers have died of SARS while almost 400 have been infected.
Asymptomatic transmission of SARS has already been documented in Hong Kong. Scientists studying the Amoy Gardens high rise outbreak found that people living in the same household could catch SARS from each other even if they were not showing symptoms of disease.
Hong Kong reported four new cases on Friday, up from two cases reported the day before. Since Hong Kong's outbreak began in March, some 1,700 cases have been recorded and 274 people have died.
Elsewhere in Asia, Taiwan reported only seven new infections on Friday, down from the surge of 50 cases reported the day before. The spike in new cases came as Taiwan re-classified some misdiagnosed patients. With nearly 700 cases, the island has the world's third largest outbreak.
China, which makes up two thirds of the world's almost 8,300 infections, also continues to see the outbreak stabilize with only seven cases reported Friday. Two more deaths brought the toll to 327.