SINGAPORE March 24 —
Singapore on Monday ordered about 740 people who may have been
exposed to a mysterious flu-like illness to stay home for 10 days in
efforts to contain the disease, which has sickened hundreds of
Health Minister Lim Hng Kiang said he was invoking the Infectious
Diseases Act for what could be the first time since Singapore gained
independence in 1965.
The city state of 4 million people has recorded 65 cases of
severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, including 14 new cases
reported on Monday, Lim said. Twelve patients are in serious
condition, he added.
"The number in (intensive care units) will increase,
unfortunately, and there may be fatalities," Lim told reporters. "A
stronger wall is now created to break the chain of infection."
Quarantined people caught outside their homes could face fines of
up to $2,825 for a first infraction and $10,000 for a second
offense, officials said.
Also Monday, Hong Kong officials reported 18 new cases of the
disease, bringing the total to 260, and said two more patients had
died a man in his 60s who was infected with a blood disease as well
as SARS and a man in his 40s who had hepatitis as well as SARS.
Many Hong Kong residents wore surgical masks as they went around
town, hoping to avoid infection. A high fever, combined with
coughing, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, are some of
Dr. William Ho, chief executive of Hong Kong's Hospital
Authority, became sick Sunday night, but it was not clear whether he
had caught SARS, the authority's chairman, Dr. Leong Che-hung, said.
Ho was hospitalized in stable condition Monday, Leong said.
Those on the quarantine list in Singapore included people who may
have had exposure to infected people, including children at a school
and a daycare, which will be closed for the duration of the
Entire households will be quarantined and the government plans to
arrange to deliver groceries to them and compensate people who could
suffer financial difficulties due to lost income, Lim said.
National Environment Agency officers will monitor the quarantined
people daily, checking for symptoms of the disease, the health
ministry said in a statement.
SARS has made 456 people around the world ill and killed 17
people, including three in Canada, since Feb. 1, according to the
latest World Health Organization figures.
The United States has reported 37 suspected cases, the WHO said.
The State Department on Saturday warned Americans not to travel to
Vietnam, one of the first countries affected.
Officials suspect SARS is linked with an earlier atypical
pneumonia outbreak in mainland China's Guangdong province that
killed five people and sickened 305. A World Health Organization
team that arrived over the weekend in Beijing said Monday it was
analyzing the Chinese cases in the scramble to unravel the
Scientists hunting down the cause of the illness said they have a
second suspect, a coronavirus, a family of viruses that includes the
second most common cause of colds.
Until now, the leading candidate has been a paramyxovirus, a
family which includes viruses ranging from mumps and measles to
"We have images emerging from the laboratory network that look
like a coronavirus," said Dr. Klaus Stohr, a WHO virologist who is
coordinating the laboratory work. "However, we know that some of the
paramyxoviruses look, in the electron microscope, like
coronaviruses, so we are getting more pieces of quite a complex
"We now have two major groups and it's up to the laboratories to
see where the virus is going to end up. I think it's going to be far
more likely that it's going to be a paramyxovirus, but more data has
to be collected."
Electron microscope images are not definitive because they only
show the size and shape of the virus. Other tests, such as genetic
profiling, are needed to confirm such findings.
Hong Kong officials also said about 100 health care workers and
relatives were being treated with a combination of the anti-viral
drug ribavirin and steroids and 85 percent were showing signs of
Some of the sickest Hong Kong patients were receiving injections
of antibodies obtained from victims who have recovered and their
initial responses appeared good, the territory's health secretary
Dr. Yeoh Eng-kiong said.
|Pedestrians cover their noses as
they walk on a crowded overpass in downtown Hong Kong Monday,
March 24, 2003 as fears spread among many ordinary citizens of
contracting an atypical pneumonia. At least 242 people in Hong
Kong have fallen ill with the disease, which prompted a rare
global health alert from the World Health Organization in
Geneva. Some Hong Kong people have been wearing surgical masks
to try to avoid the disease. (AP Photo/Anat
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