Eleven patients from a mental institution have been isolated in a Hong Kong hospital with flu-like symptoms and high fever. The illness is raising fears of a fresh outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. The World Health Organization declared Asia free of SARS last month. The disease sickened more than 8,000 people worldwide after emerging from southern China late last year.
A Hong Kong government spokeswoman says the eleven mental patients are in the hospital with coughs and fevers but says there is no immediate indication they have contracted Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.
The spokeswoman says the patients show signs of respiratory tract infections and are being treated as potential SARS cases, but would not confirm if the patients, all from the Salvation Army mental institution, were being tested.
Taiwanese health authorities isolated a 12-year-old girl Thursday, on fears she had contracted SARS on a visit to Shanghai. Seven people with whom she had contact were also isolated. Doctors say the girl had a high fever and respiratory distress.
The news media in Manila also reported two suspected cases on Thursday. One of the suspected victims, who had traveled to Hong Kong, has died.
The incidents are raising fears that the disease might be re-emerging. The World Health Organization on Thursday said it was too early to say if SARS was back after months of no new cases.
SARS first struck Hong Kong in late February but quickly spread to infect more than 1,700 people in the territory, where almost 300 died. Worldwide the disease has killed more than 800 of the nearly 8,500 victims.
SARS, which is thought to have originated in southern China, causes a serious pneumonia that can result in death. More than 20 countries reported SARS cases after the disease spread from mainland China.