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No Confirmed Case of SARS Yet

Posted April. 17, 2003 21:52,   


Amid growing public concern over SARS, or Sever Acute Respiratory Syndrome, the health authorities are taking an ambiguous approach to setting standards for infection cases, fueling sense of insecurity among people.

The health authorities said on April 17 that the country remained untouched by the deadly virus although they had detected the SARS-related corona virus in test samples from three people.

They added, however, that people showing symptoms of fever, cough and muscle ache after traveling to China or people testing positive for PCR, or exposure to enzyme, will be kept in isolation until the symptoms are cleared.

▽People Reports Symptoms

The National Medical Center confirmed that four out of twenty nine people who have reported symptoms of SARS since March 17 are now being kept in isolation. The four people are those who traveled to China or contacted with people showing symptoms.

A 3-year-old boy and a 27-year-old man had stayed long in Gaungdeung and Beijing respectively. Another 36-year-old man has also visited Gaungdeung recently. An inspector working at the Incheon Airport also showed symptoms after helping carrying the 27-year-old man to the hospital.

The center said that ten of the total 29 people, or 34.5%, including two of the four, are in their 30s and developed similar symptoms with those reported in Hong Kong. 11 of the total, or 39%, are residents in Seoul.

“The 39-year-old man and the boy were released from the hospital and the rest two will be discharged within one or two days,” NMC said.

▽Presence of Corona Virus Confirmed

NMC conducted PCR tests on 11 of the 29 reporting symptoms and detected the corona virus in samples from three people, the inspector and the 36-year-old man and a man in his 20s, who has shown no clear symptoms.

“The PCR test, invented for SARS tests in Germany only a week ago, is not thoroughly reliable and limited in the number of genes it tests. Therefore, we need to further investigate the cases before confirmation,” said Kim Moon-shik, director at the center.

“U.S. Center of Disease Prevention and Control has informed us not to resort only to the results of PCR tests,” he added.

The PCR test compares certain genetic arrangement of samples taken from people with those of the corona virus. If the arrangements match, the person tests positive. NMC recently imported the PCR test kit from Germany.

▽Test Method Need Verification

Although the World Health Organization (WHO) recently pinpointed the corona virus as cause of SARS, there is no verified test method for infection. NMC pointed out that they need to conduct further tests in a laboratory given the PCR test is neither reliable nor precise.

In Hong Kong, of 50 people who earlier tested positive for PCR, only two were confirmed as SARS cases after lab tests.

WHO issued the instructions that people showing symptoms of fever and cough after traveling to China or contacting with SARS patients as suspicious cases. The organization says that suspicious patients will be classified as SARS cases if their X-ray pictures show signs of pneumonia.

Three Kinds…Symptoms of Cold

There are three groups of corona viruses – class I causing illnesses among dogs, cats and people, class II making people sick, and class II sickening poultry. Two corona viruses, OC43 from class I and 229E from II, are known to cause cold among people. In this case, people show mild symptoms of cold for about 5 days and get cured naturally.

It has not been found, however, whether the SARS-related corona virus is one similar to the two types or a variant transmitted from animals to humans.

Jin Lee leej@donga.com