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WHO Concerned About Respiratory Disease Cases

WHO Concerned About Respiratory Disease Cases In Hong Kong Housing Complex

New York, Apr 1 2003 3:00PM

The United Nations lead health agency has expressed concern over cases of a mysterious respiratory disease in a Hong Kong residential complex, where the illness seems to be transmitted in a way not yet understood.

The World Health Organization (<"http://www.who.int/csr/sars/en/">WHO) said concern mounted this weekend about a possible outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in the large housing estate of 10 35-storey blocks, which has some 15,000 residents. Of the 45 new SARS cases hospitalized on Saturday, 28 were all residents of the estate. The next day, 36 of the 60 new patients admitted with probable SARS were also from the same residential complex.

The health agency said most of those affected were in vertically arranged apartments in a single block, suggesting that SARS in Hong Kong may be spreading according to a different pattern - still involving close person-to-person contact with bodily secretions. Epidemiologists are considering the possibility that these secretions containing the causative virus might somehow enter common systems linking rooms or flats.

A total 213 residents of Amoy Garden in Kowloon District have been admitted into hospital with suspected SARS, according to the Hong Kong Department of Health. Of these, 107 patients resided in Block E, which is now under isolation and residents have been instructed to remain in their flats until midnight on 9 April.

Hong Kong health officials said they have taken environmental samples from Block E and investigations are under way to determine a possible explanation for this apparent vertical spread. The results will also help determine the source of infection in and the mechanisms by which the pathogen has spread.

Local epidemiologists have identified a possible "index" case in the Amoy Garden outbreak: a man, now hospitalized in Prince of Wales Hospital, who visited his brother in Block E several times.

As of today, a total of 1,800 cases in 17 countries resulting in 62 deaths have been reported.

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