Mike Leidig
Phone: + 43 - 1 - 811 40 - 319
Mon, 17.03.2003
pte20030317016 Health/Medicine
Pressbox Pressbox
WHO warns of killer pneumonia strain
First infected passenger lands in Europe

Frankfurt (pte016/17.03.2003/11:05) - Europe is on high alert over the killer pneumonia strain emanating from Asia that has killed at least nine people. One hundred and 55 plane travellers were caught up in a scare in Germany when they were quarantined after a flight from New York put down with a seriously ill passenger.

The man was a doctor from Singapore who had been in contact with victims. Frankfurt authorities quarantined the other passengers overnight but they were released Sunday morning after undergoing health checks.

Yesterday (Sun) Swiss aviation authorities gave pilots bound for the country the choice of diverting elsewhere if passengers on board showed symptoms of the bug: high fevers, heavy coughing and difficulty breathing or if they had been in recent contact with victims.

The flu-like virus is the worst nightmare of World Health Organisation (WHO) officials. The last great flu pandemic immediately after World War I in 1919 claimed more lives than the nine million men lost on the battlefields. Experts have repeatedly warned that such a pandemic could repeat itself at any time.

A spokesman for the Geneva-based WHO said two people had died in Canada, taking the death toll to nine worldwide since the first outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), an atypical pneumonia whose cause is not yet known, was detected in China in February.

The World Health Organisation issued a global alert this week after outbreaks in Asia of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and has sent experts to Asia to track down the source.

One hundred and fifty five passengers on board the Singapore Airlines flight into Frankfurt had to be quarantined - the first suspects to hit Europe.

The infected doctor had already started to experience symptoms of SARS, which include an initial influenza-like illness with rapid onset of high fever, followed by muscle aches, headache, and sore throat. The man told airline staff that he had treated some of the earlier suspected cases of SARS in his home country.

He is in the isolation ward of the Frankfurt University Clinic where his condition is described as critical. His wife and another female doctor are also being held there.

The remaining passengers were ushered past relatives who had turned up to meet them at the airport and then taken to quarantine at the same hospital for treatment before being allowed to leave. They have been told to stay alert for symptoms.

A spokesman at the hospital in Frankfurt said: "We are not releasing any information on the condition of passengers or their details, but we are treating the matter very seriously."

In China eight people have died of SARS and 300 have been infected. In Australia 86 cases have been registered and 41 in Vietnam.

Submitter: pressetext.europe
Contact: Mike Leidig
Phone: + 43 - 1 - 811 40 - 319