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SARS Scientist Catches Disease Long

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
Story taken from ninemsn.com.au

SARS scientist catches disease

AP - A spilled test tube containing a SARS sample likely infected a medical researcher who wasn't following strict laboratory safety procedures, the World Health Organisation said.

The scientist has been diagnosed as the first case in months.

The unnamed Taiwanese patient flew to Singapore for a conference days after he was exposed but did not fall sick with a tell-tale fever until after he returned to Taipei, Taiwan health officials said.

There were no plans to track fellow airline passengers or conference delegates.

However, he along with so far unaffected members of his family and six still healthy co-workers had been placed in home quarantine.

Dr Shigeru Omi, the WHO's Western Pacific regional director, said the sick scientist was not wearing protective gloves and a gown while studying SARS and handling samples of the virus.

"This person told the authorities that he worked in the laboratory on the 5th of December and on that day ... he observed that there's some spilled liquid attached to the outside surface of the test tube," Omi said at a news conference in Manila, Philippines.

"So this is most likely how the contaminated liquid infected this scientist," Omi said.

It was Taiwan's first SARS case since it was dropped from a global list of infected areas in July.

Doctors fear severe acute respiratory syndrome - that infected 8,098 people worldwide and killed 774 after it first reported a year ago - might return with the onset of the Northern Hemisphere winter.

But Taiwan officials downplayed the risk of the disease spreading.

"Right now, he's the only one who's been infected," Health Minister Chen Chien-jen said at a news conference as workers disinfected an apartment building where the man, his wife, two children and father were in quarantine.

The sick scientist travelled to Singapore on December 7 and returned to Taiwan on a China Airlines flight December 10.

A medical check at Taipei airport showed no signs of fever but he fell ill that night at home. They doubted he was contagious during his time abroad.

The patient had been studying SARS at the National Defence University in Taipei, Taiwan's Centre for Disease Control, said in a statement.

All Taiwanese labs researching SARS have been closed, CDC chief Su said.

Six co-workers who also travelled to Singapore had been quarantined but had no symptoms.

There are no plans to test people who travelled on the same airplanes as the infected man. Singapore's Ministry of Health would not say whether there were plans to trace conference delegates.

Singapore reported a similar case after a Singaporean lab worker caught SARS in late August.

The case was the world's first known infection since the World Health Organisation declared the disease under control last July.

Investigators blamed the case on "inappropriate safety procedures."

The CDC said the new Taiwanese patient had showed no signs of a fever when his temperature was checked at Taipei's airport upon arrival, but he became sick later that evening.

Officials said they thought he was exposed to the virus in his lab and not in Singapore.

"He was in a hurry to get ready for the Singapore conference, so he was rushing to finish his disinfection work and was careless," CDC chief Su Ih-jen said in an interview with TVBS cable news.

Chen doubted that the scientist was a threat to the public, including his fellow plane passengers, during his return trip.

The health official said SARS isn't believed to be contagious until the onset of a fever. The virus has a maximum incubation period of 10 days, according to the World Health Organisation.

Chen said that since the scientist was not in the official contagious period during his travels, passengers on the China Airlines flight would not be individually informed about the case. But he urged the passengers to be vigilant for SARS symptoms.

The case filled many Taiwanese with anxiety.

"This is terrible. It's very bad news," said Virginia Su, a Taipei insurance saleswoman.

The fact that the case was laboratory-related didn't completely ease the 41-year-old woman's concerns. "It's still bad for business," she said.

It wasn't immediately known which conference the scientist attended in Singapore. A CDC spokesman, Shih Wen-yi, said Taiwan's military hasn't authorised the CDC to provide details about the Singapore visit.

In Singapore, Karen Tan, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health, said there were no suspected SARS cases in the city-state.

Taiwan's TVBS cable news showed footage of the researcher being transported to Taipei's Hoping Hospital in a special ambulance with medical workers dressed in protective gowns and surgical masks.

Henk Bekedam, WHO representative in China, told reporters in Beijing that the case is "a clear reminder again that we have to be extremely cautious working with the SARS corona virus."

The SARS case caused Taiwan's jittery stock market to drop 2.3 per cent. But Nicholas Chai, a manager at Insight Pacific Research, said investors stopped panicking after learning the case involved a laboratory researcher.

"Investors were relieved a bit," he said.

News of the case though pushed shares of some Asian airlines into a tailspin.

Taiwan's China Airlines plunged three per cent amid flashbacks of the epidemic that savaged the travel and tourism industries.

Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific Airways lost 2.7 per cent. In Tokyo Japan Airlines System fell 3.5 per cent and All Nippon Airways was off 2.6 per cent. Singapore Airlines dropped 3.4 per cent.

During this year's SARS outbreak, Taiwan ranked No. 3 in the world behind China and Hong Kong for SARS deaths and cases. In Hong Kong, health officials raised their level of alert as a precaution.

The virus began spreading quickly in Taiwan last April when ill-prepared hospitals, including Hoping, failed to properly manage infected patients.

When the virus was contained in July, the island had recorded 346 SARS cases and 37 deaths. The WHO removed Taiwan from its list of SARS-infected areas on July 5.
I'm completing a Bachelor of Science with a major in Chemistry and cannot believe the carelessness involved in this incident. I have chosen microbiological units as electives in my course of study and safety has always been paramount. And these were with non-virulent organisms. The same is in Chemistry, safety is the number one priority. I just hope when I start working in a lab, I don't encounter any safety breaches. I do not understand how people become complacent. There is NO excuse or reason.
post #2 of 9
"He was in a hurry to get ready for the Singapore conference, so he was rushing to finish his disinfection work and was careless," CDC chief Su Ih-jen said in an interview with TVBS cable news.

This guy was thinking of other things. That is how accidents happen.I am as as you are about his carelessness; but then I also think that his supervisors should have foreseen something like this was bound to happen.
I am a Murphy's Law believer!
post #3 of 9
Thread Starter 
At the beginning of every semester before a bottle of chemical is touched, let alone opened, we get a safety talk. It's also due to insurance policies but it's so ingrained in the staff, I'd think we'd get one regardless which in my opinion is a good thing.

A lot of the time in research, you are working by yourself, although part of a team. You get delegated a specific task to do and unsupervised because you know what needs to be done. And you should know what safety guidelines are in place, and these include international, national, state, legal and the organisation's.

And if we're sick or have an appointment to make during the course of study, we are required to tell our lab technician, tutor and lecturer and arrangements are made to do the lab another time. In the workplace or industry, you would be required to tell your supervisor of any circumstances that would impede on your performance.

It's all time management and the excuse of "I got carried away by work." won't wash with me on this one.
post #4 of 9
I certainly hope that their confidence about no health risk to the other passengers and conference attendees is not misplaced.

And this
The virus has a maximum incubation period of 10 days, according to the World Health Organisation.
worries me.

I remember that in one of the Toronto cases, the incubation period was suspected to be 14 days. The only contact that a SARS patient had was 14 days before her infection, which indicated that the WHO time frame was wrong. I just don't believe that they know these risk factors with as much certainty as the report indicates.
post #5 of 9
Thread Starter 
There's more than one strain of SARS as well. This isn't well publicised by the scientific community as the general media will pounce on it and say that it has mutated and mutation generally leads to mass hysteria in the general population.
post #6 of 9
I wish you well with your studies and future career Gem

All those diseases scare me but I know we have to study them in order to learn how to vaccinate ourselves and possibly develop cures for other diseases.

Kudos to you Gem for your interest in this field.
post #7 of 9
Thread Starter 
Thank you Bent.

I've been following the SARS outbreak since a mysterious virus emerged from China. I just hope the authorities know what they are doing this time. I still think the people on the airplane and people who attended the forum should be monitored in some way. I just have a sick feeling at the bottom of my stomach about this.

I just hope that I get proven wrong.
post #8 of 9
Apparently they are monitoring other passengers on the flight, though not all of them have been accounted for:
I don't know - I have a feeling that SARS is here to stay.
post #9 of 9
Thread Starter 
SARS never actually went away. It is still in the environment and there is a strain that people can carry in themselves and not die from it. All that happens is that it is a cold and it goes away. They develop the antibodies to the SARS virus but no one is certain whether this would protect them from the strain that causes death.
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