WHO Official Views Singapore SARS Case as Isolated One

World Health Organization Western Pacific Regional Director Shigeru Omi said at a press briefing Wednesday in Manila that the Singaporean national who was tested positive for severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is still an isolated, and suspected case.

"It is possible that this person was exposed to the virus one way or another," Omi said, adding that the man, reportedly a post-doctoral medical student, had visited the laboratory where SARS virus was kept for academic purposes.

Singapore health officials declared on Tuesday that the 27-year-old man was possibly contracted with SARS, and over 50 people who had close contact with the suspected patient were put under quarantine as a precautionary measure.

Omi, for his part, said he had confidence in the health system and epidemic watchdog in Singapore, stressing that there is no need for the public to panic over this issue as there have been noproof of human-to-human transmission in the city state.

The surveillance system of Singapore would be "sensitive enough" to pick up any case of local transmission of SARS, he added.

Omi said he shared the view with Singaporean authorities that this is "very likely a laboratory-oriented, isolated case."

He further said the WHO is still awaiting further information from Singapore on whether the infecting virus has mutated.

It was reported that SARS sickened more than 8,000 people, killing over 900 of them worldwide in an outbreak that began late last year.

A separate report here quoted Balaji Sadasivan, Singapore's minister of state for health, as saying that the laboratory where the researcher was working had been temporarily shut down and the man himself posed no significant health risk to others.

If confirmed, the Singaporean case may be the world's first onesince a global outbreak was declared over in July.



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