First SARS case detected in Sarawak

Sarawak Tribune, Friday, March 21 2003

By Abdul Hakim Bujang and Nathan Achuk

KUCHING ‑ The State Health Department official yesterday confirmed that the first case of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) or also known as Atypical Pneumonia was detected in a German national who visited Hong Kong and China recently. 

The official who spoke on the condition of anonymity when contacted yesterday said: 

"He is currently in good condition and has been warded at the Sarawak General Hospital since March 18." 

"So far he is the only case, the situation is under control and we would like to appeal to all Sarawakians to refrain from travelling to Hong Kong and China," he added. 

On the precaution measure, he said all divisional health officers from throughout the state were briefed about the symptom yesterday. 

"We have opened‑up an operation room to deal with SARS and want the public, especially frontliners who deal directly with the highrisk group to be cautious. 

"We have discussed with Immigration and airport, our men are placed at the airport while local ports are on alert," he said. 

He however stressed that the precaution measure would not be causing unnecessary burden to the public. 

"Once you have the sign, fever, coughing and respiratory problem, go and see doctor," he advised. 

On the difference between normal flu and SARS, he said, "Flu is more of running nose and at times blocked but pneumonia will cause breathing difficulty," he said.

Minister of Environment and Public Health, Datuk William Mawan Ikom had proposed three ways how the public can help to stop this outbreak. 

"Firstly, seek medical attention when having high fever (more than 38 degree C) and respiratory symptoms including cough or shortness of breath or breathing difficulty, AND have travelled to Hong Kong, Hanoi or Guangdong within two weeks of onset of the symptom. 

"Secondly, don't travel to Hong Kong, Hanoi and Guangdong province China, unless absolutely necessary. 

"Thirdly, children who have travelled to these affected areas in the past two weeks should not be sent to school," he told reporters on Wednesday. 

Meanwhile, doctors in Germany and Hong Kong have claimed major breakthrough by identifying the mysterious flu virus family. 

The virus was identified by a team from the Prince of Wales Hospital and the Chinese University of Hong Kong as being part of paramyxoviridae family, which includes the Nipah virus that killed more than 100 Malaysian pig farmers in 1999, The New Paper, said. 

In Germany, samples taken from a Singaporean doctor show that the SARS samples resemble a virus group that causes measles and mumps, also known as Paramyxovirus family, that causes respiratory infections. 

Both were detected via electron microscopy and fur­ther confirmed through a molecular technique that showed the nucleic acid sequence of the virus. 

The virus has been declared as global threat by World Health Organisation (WHO). 

Since the outbreak detect­ed in China in November, 524 have contracted the dis­ease. China had the most cases with 305, Hong Kong 123 cases, Vietnam 57, Singapore 23, Canada 8, Germany 2, Taiwan 3; and one each from Thailand, Slovenia, and the United Kingdom as of yesterday. 

14 people have died worldwide, including a French doctor who treated the first known patient in Vietnam.