Rapid Response Avoids Possible Spread of SARS in Xiamen

Quick action on the part of the government and doctors in Xiamen, a seaside resort city in east China's Fujian Province, has avoided possible spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) there.

The potential for a large-scale contagion of SARS in Fujian arose on April 1, when two of a group of 40 workers who were returning from Hong Kong, where they had been living in a SARS-affected apartment complex, were confirmed to be carrying the virus.

Wang Q. and Ke X., both employees of an aircraft engineering company in Xiamen, returned to the province with other colleagues on March 30 and 31. They had been sent by the company to Hong Kong for a training program and had resided at the Amoy Gardens apartments where some 80 SARS cases were confirmed by the HK health authority during their stay.

Wang and Ke were diagnosed with SARS in the Zhongshan Hospital and the First Hospital in Xiamen, respectively, on the same day.

Upon diagnostic confirmation, the Xiamen government, together with senior provincial health officials, quickly worked out plans to check the spread of the epidemic.

The city's respiratory disease center opened a SARS treatment section in the Second Hospital of Xiamen. Doctors and experts were mobilized to treat the patients.

Meanwhile, the city's anti-epidemic personnel were sent in two groups to survey all of the people who had had contact with the two patients on their return trip in the event that the disease had been transmitted.

The most difficult but also most important task was also undertaken: the medical staff began a massive search for Wang and Ke's fellow trainees around the province.

They contacted the company and asked for the list of the trainees, including their names, addresses and telephone numbers. A large team of health workers was organized to locate these potential SARS carriers, who, unaware of the danger, were about freely.

According to the company's information, 20 members of the group were in Xiamen, while others had returned to other cities in the province.

Following a harrowing two day search, all of the workers living in Xiamen had been found and sent to a local sanitarium, which had been converted into a SARS treatment station at the order of the government.

As for the rest of the people returning from Hong Kong, some were impossible to reach since they were traveling or staying at the homes of friends or relatives.

However, the health staff's dedicated efforts paid off, and by April 7, a total of 36 workers and three relatives had been found and sent to the sanitarium for monitoring and observation.

Tests and observation confirmed that the 39 people were, fortunately, not infected, doctors said.

The two SARS victims are currently recovering. Wang told the reporter on the phone that she is fine now, and doctors and nurses have given her a great deal of encouragement in her fight against the disease.

Jiang Xingtang, an experienced respiratory specialist, said Wang is expected to be discharged in one week.

Health officials are maintaining contact with the company and tracking the few remaining workers who have not yet been found.



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