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Taiwan Seeking Those Who Had Contact With SARS Patient - 2003-12-18

Health officials in Taiwan are trying to track down people who had contact with a local man infected with the island's first new case of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.

Officials say more than a dozen Taiwanese sat near the 44-year-old victim on a China Airlines flight from Singapore to Taipei December 10. They have been ordered to quarantine themselves to see if they develop symptoms of the disease.

Five foreigners on the plane also were sitting in seats near the SARS patient. Authorities are trying to contact them. And 70 people from Singapore thought to have come into contact with him have been confined to their homes.

The man works at a medical research institute. He developed a fever last week after returning from Singapore, and tests on Wednesday confirmed he has SARS. He is reported in stable condition at a hospital in Taipei.

An official with the World Health Organization has criticized the infected researcher, saying he did not follow safety guidelines while studying the virus in his laboratory.

Singapore reported a similar case last September, when a lab worker caught SARS while doing research on the illness. He later recovered. That man was the world's first reported SARS case since the World Health Organization declared the global outbreak over on July 5.

Taiwan recorded almost 350 SARS cases and 37 deaths during the epidemic, which began in southern China more than a year ago.