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Front page News Business Entertainment

 GENERAL NEWS - Saturday 22 March 2003

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Researcher is first victim in Thailand

Hospitals to meet in case of outbreak

Aphaluck Bhatiasevi

A World Health Organisation researcher who was among the first to investigate the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars) in Hanoi last week, is the first victim of the disease in Thailand, according to Bamrasnaradura Hospital in Nonthaburi.

Dr Urbani Carlo, 40, is currently in critical condition.

He is being closely monitored by the medical team.

He entered Thailand on March 11 and was immediately transferred to the hospital with flu symptoms and high fever which later developed into pneumonia.

Dr Carlo is being treated in a special glass room with three layers of doors which have been specially designed for treatment of patients with special diseases.

Health staff taking care of him wear eight pieces of special protective gear, including a double-layer breathing mask.

Dr Somsit Tansuphasavasdikul, the doctor in charge of Dr Carlo, said though no confirmation had been received from specimens of Dr Carlo's phlegm and blood sent to the US Communicable Diseases Control, his symptoms matched those of patients having Sars.

Dr Carlo's condition had been stable for the past few days, though he showed no signs of responding to treatment.

If Dr Carlo's condition deteriorates, he will be put on breathing equipment.

Dr Charal Trinvuthiphong, director-general of Diseases Control Department, yesterday called for a meeting of about 60 hospitals in Bangkok and neighbouring areas to plan preparations in case of an outbreak in Thailand.

The condition of two suspected cases reported in Nopparat Ratchathani Hospital in Min Buri and in Lop Buri had improved, he said.

The WHO announced yesterday it was increasingly optimistic of soon identifying the source of the illness, enabling scientists to quickly come up with precise diagnostic tests.

``If a paramyxovirus is confirmed to be the cause, WHO will be in a much better position to recommend treatment.

Research was now focused on the paramyxoviridae family of viruses, which includes well-known viruses causing mumps, measles and common respiratory ailments.

The WHO has also established a cooperative network with two daily teleconferences among the most affected Asian countries, Europe and North America.

``Participants are pooling data on cases and sharing X-rays, at this stage one of the main tools for distinguishing between suspected and probable cases,'' the WHO said.

According to the WHO, the antiviral drug ribavirin had, to some degree, improved the clinical condition of patients in Hong Kong.

By Thursday night, 306 cases, including 10 deaths, had been reported in 11 countries.

Of these, 42 cases, including one fatality, were reported in the past week.

The latest cases were reported in Canada (1), Hong Kong (23), Singapore (3), Taiwan (1), China (1), the United Kingdom (1), Vietnam (6) and Switzerland (7).

Though recent media reports referred to two suspected cases of Sars _ one an airline crew member and another a passenger travelling on separate flights from Hong Kong and Taipei to Vietnam _ the cases appear not to be linked.

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