New SARS travel warning issued

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-23-2003
New SARS travel warning issued
Wed, 04-23-2003 - 2:47pm
Thankfully, we've only had one confirmed case of SARS here, which is amazing considering the amount of traffic from the Far East that comes through Seattle.

MSNBC News Services

Responding to the global spread of the deadly SARS virus, the World Health Organization on Wednesday counseled against travel to Beijing, China's Shanxi province and Toronto, Canada's business capital.

THE WARNING came amid other signals Wednesday reflecting the concern and spread of the virus:

China said another 147 people had come down with SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, and nine more people had died. Beijing officials suspended school for two weeks because of the outbreak.

Canada raised its SARS death toll by one, to 15.

Singapore also saw its toll rise by one, to 17, the first death there in five days. Alarm was growing over an outbreak among vendors at the city-state's largest vegetable market and the government threatened to jail people violating quarantine.


WHO's recommendation to postpone non-essential travel to Beijing, Shanxi and Toronto will be in effect for at least three weeks, twice the maximum incubation period, David Heymann, WHO director of communicable diseases, told reporters.

Part of a third country might join the list by Monday, he said, without identifying it. With the new warning, Toronto becomes the first place outside Asia on the list. The city was also the first place outside Asia where the disease was detected.

WHO on April 4 had issued travel warnings for the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, where SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, is believed to have begun, and for Hong Kong.

"As was the case for Hong Kong and Guangdong, we now have (additionally) these areas which have a high magnitude of disease, a great risk of transmission locally and have also been exporting cases to other countries," Heymann said.

The illness, whose symptoms include high fever, a dry cough and difficulty breathing, has killed more than 250 people around the world.

Most patients survive, but health officials say the mortality rate has risen from four percent to 5.9 percent and there is no known cure.

Beijing, a city of 14 million people, has reported almost 700 SARS cases and 35 deaths, out of 106 nationwide. Shanxi has the third highest number of cases in China, 157 cases with seven deaths, according to health ministry figures.

Canada has reported 15 deaths, all in the Toronto area, and 306 suspected or probable cases, including 136 in Ontario province.


China said Wednesday that another 147 people came down with SARS, raising the national figure to 2,305, and that nine more had died.

Beijing, reeling from a huge jump in cases over the past few days, reported 105 of the new cases, and seven of the deaths.

New precautions taken Wednesday include closing Beijing's primary and secondary schools, which have 1.7 million students, through May 7, resulting in the cancellation of mid-term exams and field trips.

And Beijing authorities said they plan to invoke emergency measures to quarantine people exposed to SARS and restrict access to buildings where there are infections.

The statement, released by the local television station, did not provide details on how the new measures will be enforced or where people will be quarantined.

Other news reports said Beijing's airport had set up an infrared body temperature scanner to check passengers for fever, a SARS symptom. They said similar devices are to be set up at train stations and airports in Shanghai, China's biggest city.

As panic buying spread in Beijing amid fears that it would become a closed city, thousands of people thronged its main railway station to get out of town.

"I'm going home because I'm scared of getting sick," said migrant worker Deng Pao after managing to buy a ticket to his home province of Henan. "I've been in Beijing for two months and had a good job, but it's not worth it."

People wearing white cotton masks waited for hours outside rather than linger in crowded waiting rooms.

"My train doesn't leave for another six hours, but I'm not waiting inside," said Cao Shu, a student whose university halted all classes two days ago because of SARS fears.


The outbreak has spread across Asia, where other governments have taken more aggressive measures in response, in contrast with the Chinese government, which has been criticized for allegedly covering up the severity of its outbreak.

In Hong Kong, where authorities quickly imposed quarantine measures early in the outbreak, 200,000 secondary students were able to return to school Tuesday after three weeks at home. But concerns remained that infections in Hong Kong would rise because of its proximity to China.

Upon returning to school, the teens were told to wear surgical masks and take their temperatures daily. Younger students remained at home, and a few schools refused to reopen.

Some experts said the decline in cases in Hong Kong this week was encouraging, but they also said a three-day decline was inconclusive.

"You really have to look at trends -- the daily figure or two days or three days doesn't really mean anything," said Malik Peiris, a microbiologist at the University of Hong Kong. "Really, what you need to look at is maybe on a week, two-week basis, is there a consistent trend downward? Then, one can feel more confident."

Hong Kong would appear to be heading in the right direction if new cases dropped into the single digits and stayed there, said Henry Niman, a Harvard University instructor who teaches surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital. Case numbers Tuesday were 32, with 22 cases Sunday and Monday. At times, daily case numbers have hit 40.

"It wouldn't mean Hong Kong was out of the woods, but it would be an indication things are contracting in Hong Kong rather than expanding," Niman said Tuesday. "It needs to continue going down, and getting into single digits on an ongoing basis would be a good indication things are getting better."

Hong Kong recently began quarantining the families of SARS victims, while stepping up efforts to find potential contacts. Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa said Monday that those measures had led to the detection of 150 suspected cases.

Tung said Hong Kong was "slowly but surely getting the figures stabilized" and added that he was growing increasingly optimistic about containing SARS. The disease has now sickened more than 1,400 people in Hong Kong and killed 99, with five new deaths reported Tuesday, most of them in octogenarians with other chronic illnesses.

Although Tung expressed optimism about defeating SARS, he has not predicted how soon, and officials have not said what would need to be seen before victory could be claimed.


In China, the government canceled the weeklong May Day holiday to discourage people from traveling and spreading the disease.

Tens of millions of travelers had been expected to fill trains, planes, buses and hotels across China during the holiday, and the cancellation deals a potential blow to the nation's economy.

Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, in a speech delivered last week and published Monday, said the health system was so inadequate that an epidemic could spread "before we know it" and that "the consequences could be too dreadful to contemplate."

"If you do not have the resources to deal with SARS, I think we're for a very big outbreak in China," said Henk Bekedam, the World Health Organization representative in China. "I think it will be quite a challenge to contain SARS within China, especially those provinces which have very limited resources."

WHO experts arrived Monday in Shanghai to inspect hospitals and ascertain the scope of the SARS problem. Government officials have confirmed only two cases in the nation's financial hub and are following nine suspected cases.

Cases have also appeared in various parts of China, including the northern region of Inner Mongolia, the eastern province of Zhejiang and Guangxi in the south.

SARS is caused by a form of the coronavirus, previously known as a cause of the common cold.

Coronaviruses usually have been neglected by drug companies because colds go away on their own. But scientists throughout the world now are developing new tests and screening for new treatments against the virus.

SARS is spread by coughing and sneezing, but health experts say it may also be transmitted when people touch objects, such as elevator buttons, or that it could be passed on in fecal matter. Symptoms include a high fever, a dry cough, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. There is no known cure, although people treated early enough usually recover.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-18-2000
Wed, 04-23-2003 - 5:31pm
The spreading of SARS could have been prevented if it had been contained as soon as it was discovered. Instead it was kept a secret.



iVillage Member
Registered: 03-23-2003
Wed, 04-23-2003 - 6:04pm
I'll never understand why China did that. So many people have died needlessly because of their 'pride'.

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Thu, 04-24-2003 - 8:23am
From AOL News Site:

SARS Closes Beijing Hospital

BEIJING (April 24) - China shut down a major hospital in Beijing and put more than 2,000 employees under observation for severe acute respiratory syndrome Thursday, as Hong Kong health experts said the disease may be even deadlier than originally thought.

Canadian officials, meanwhile, reacted with anger after the World Health Organization warned travelers against going to Toronto, the worst-infected area outside Asia.

As efforts to contain the virus intensified, Singapore was refurbishing a drug rehabilitation camp to hold anyone who violates an order to stay under home quarantine.

Worldwide, the death toll has passed 260, with more than 4,300 cases of infection reported.

The People's Hospital of Peking University was being disinfected and its patients and more than 2,000 employees moved to one of six hospitals in Beijing designated to handle severe acute respiratory syndrome, the university said.

It did not say how many patients were involved, but the Web site for People's Hospital says it has 1,020 beds.

The hospital's front gate was closed and a sign said patients, employees and all items used in the building were barred from leaving.

Visitors left bags of food and clothes, which the guard handed through the gate to masked hospital employees.

Nationwide, China has reported 110 deaths and more than 2,400 people sickened from SARS. Anxious Beijing residents cleared supermarket shelves of food on Thursday amid unease about possible shortages.

''You should have seen it. Lines at the cash registers stretched all the way to the store's back wall,'' said a clerk at a Jingkelong Supermarket who identified herself only as Li.

In Hong Kong, health officials revised the territory's SARS death rate to 7.2 percent of all reported cases, from about 5 percent earlier. Officials fear it may rise further.

The Health Department has been reporting the number of deaths divided by the number of cases, but some doctors have questioned this formula, saying some people already in hospitals would still die and push the numbers higher.

Four more people died in Hong Kong, bringing the toll to 109, the government said Thursday.

The South China Morning Post quoted two experts in Thursday's editions as saying the mortality rate here might end up at around 10 percent.

''Many academics estimated the death rate to be between 5 percent and 6 percent,'' Sydney Chung Sheung-chee, dean of medicine at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, was quoted as saying. ''But I believe it has been underestimated. I would hope that the figure would stay as low as possible, but a conservative estimate would be at least 10 percent.''

In Singapore, Health Minister Lim Hng Kiang said Thursday that 8 to 9 percent of the island's SARS patients are dying.

In Tokyo, automaker Toyota Motor Corp. said it would help Japanese employees based in China to return home for an extended holiday if they were nervous about the illness.

The World Health Organization expanded an advisory against travel to affected areas, warning against visiting Beijing, the northern province of Shanxi and Toronto. Japan's government extended its own travel warning to cover the two areas.

Canadian officials said they would ask WHO to rescind its warning.

''There is no evidence of casual transmission of the disease in Toronto,'' Dr. Paul Gully of the government agency Health Canada told a news conference Wednesday. ''We challenge the WHO's assertion that Toronto is an unsafe place to visit.''

Major League Baseball officials advised caution when players visit Toronto, which has reported 16 deaths. Officials initially told them to avoid signing autographs, but later amended that.

''While it is a concern, the risk of actual infection is still incredibly small,'' said Rob Manfred, executive vice president of labor relations for the baseball commissioner's office. ''The advice we're giving to the teams is basic health advice: wash your hands, avoid sharing food.''

Experts say it is still unclear whether the tough measures will prevent the disease from becoming a permanent fixture.

The WHO says there are several signs needed to indicate the outbreak is finally contained: when the spread in the local community is stemmed; when no new infections have been exported to other countries for a certain amount of time; when the total number of cases falls to a certain level; and when the number of new infections detected each day is under a particular number.

Singapore, which has reported 17 deaths, was preparing a medical camp to hold any of the 2,500 people who are under home quarantine if they disobey orders and go out in public.

The island nation's parliament was planning Thursday to amend public health laws to let authorities fine or imprison quarantine violators without going to court.

Late Wednesday, the Beijing city government announced it would invoke emergency measures to have people exposed to SARS quarantined at home and restrict access to buildings and areas with infections.

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-18-2000
Thu, 04-24-2003 - 9:18am
Hope this will stop some of the spreading of SARS, but I'm afraid the horse has already escaped from the proverbial barn.

On BBC they mentioned that the death toll could rise when it spreads to the general population. They theorized that most health care workers are younger & healthier than the population as a whole. When/if SARS reaches older & less healthy persons the death toll will increase.



iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Thu, 04-24-2003 - 2:45pm
I've read in several articles that the Chinese gov't is hoping that this doesn't reach their rural provinces, where health care is, for all intents and purposes, non-existant. They fear that the deaths will multiply out of control. At least there isn't much tourism in the extreme rural areas....
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Thu, 04-24-2003 - 4:37pm
Yes,its scary,but I wasn't that surprised.Virology is interesting,this was bound to spread,and will continue to do so until a vaccine is implemented,quick tests designed, a treatment for corona virus is found,or the immunity of people builds up over a looong period of time. Corona virus,which also causes the common cold is not treatable,but never was worried about because the cold doesn't kill,only infections triggered by it and mainly in the elderly.So, research wasn't moving along at a fast pace. Now however,theres tons of companies and labs and the CDC trying to study and find some sort of reaction in the corona virus. I believe quarantine or isolation is necessary. I'm sorry Toronto is so upset,or should I say Canada,but if other countries received travel advisorym then why should Toronto be different? And yes,SARS is hurting businesses everywhere. What happens in China,Singapore and Toronto does have a global effect.

I hope some young and aspiring student of virology hits the jackpot soon.

Avatar for garconoix
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Fri, 04-25-2003 - 12:30am
I support the suggested advisory re travel to Toronto. I think that some of my Canuck compatriots who are angry that WHO advised against unnecessary travel to Toronto are engaged in nimbyism. I think a hard line must be taken against SARS and if it ruffles a few feathers or causes a recession in Canada - which economists here say may happen, or at the least, a sharp reduction in economic growth - then so be it.

so allow me to be an "unpatriotic Canadian", but a good citizen of the world, and suggest that people stay away from Toronto for now. It might be ok in a couple of weeks.

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Mon, 04-28-2003 - 12:23pm
And stay away from Atlanta-our mosquitoes are huge and carry west nile virus.

There-I feel better.

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-23-2003
Mon, 04-28-2003 - 3:43pm
West Nile Virus has shown up here in Washington State as well.

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Mon, 04-28-2003 - 8:29pm
yeh-thats a fun summer for ya.Spray on the mosquito repellent while donning your surgical mask. Last year I sprayed repellent on when outside. we had several cases in my area. i did get bites but didn't freak out. The elderly are the ones that need to watch out when gardening,but repellent and reasonably long clothes should do the trick.