China seals off SARS lab linked to death

Associated Press

Beijing, April 24:

China sealed off a SARS research lab in its capital today after two lab workers fell ill and the mother of one died in what could be the world’s first SARS fatality this year.A nurse who looked after one of the ill lab workers caught the disease and was also in isolation, the government said.The lab infections and their transmission to others “are an embarrassment to China,” said World Health Organisation spokesman Bob Dietz, in Beijing. “It’s not good that this happened in the lab. It’s not good that the health of these people was apparently not monitored.”However, the virus is “not out in the public,” he said. “The Ground Zero has been identified.”The virus control institute at China’s Centres for Disease Control was sealed off and would remain so until at least May 7, the Health Ministry said on its Web site. More than 180 of its workers were quarantined in a hotel in Beijing’s outskirts, state newspapers reported - along with pictures showing the workers in face masks taking a bus to a hotel yesterday night. Chinese health officials said a 26-year-old woman who worked in the lab was confirmed to have SARS. She is believed to have infected her mother, who died on Monday.

The daughter was treated last month at a Beijing hospital, where she came into contact with the 20-year-old nurse, who is also now a confirmed SARS case, the Health Ministry said.

A colleague at the Centres for Disease Control lab - a 31-year-old Beijing man - is listed as a suspected case, the ministry said on its Web site. Officials said they hadn’t confirmed whether the lab worker’s mother died of SARS.

S’pore put on alert

SINGAPORE: Singapore’s hospitals were put on alert for possible SARS cases after a new outbreak was reported in China, officials said on Saturday. At the city-state’s international Changi Airport, passengers arriving from all points in China will be screened for fever — an early sign of the disease — immediately upon leaving their airplanes, said Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore spokesman Albert Tjoeng. Singapore was also considering tightening restrictions at hospitals. — AP

Taiwan airport checks

TAIPEI: Passengers arriving in Taiwan’s international airport from China had to fill out health forms on Saturday as a precaution against SARS, after the mainland confirmed the world’s first SARS death this year and two other cases. Staff in surgical masks handed out forms to arriving passengers at Taipei’s Chiang Kai-shek International Airport. Travellers who’d visited Beijing and Anhui had to fill out the questionnaires, and will receive daily calls from officials while they’re in Taiwan. — AP