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Singapore man tests positive for SARS
( 2003-09-09 09:51) (Agencies)

A man in Singapore has tested positive for SARS, health officials said Monday. It was the first reported new case of the disease in more than five months and came after health officials had warned the flu-like illness could return.

A nurse takes the temperature of a patient as part of the screening for SARS, before he was allowed to enter the waiting room of a hospital in Singapore, in this April 16, 2003 file photo. [Reuters]
The man, an ethnic Chinese Singapore citizen, tested positive for severe acute respiratory syndrome when he tried to enter Singapore General Hospital, Ministry of Health spokeswoman Bey Mui Leng said. Bey said testing would be repeated to make sure the man had SARS.

The man was tested using a method approved by the World Health Organization. Singapore has been on alert against a possible second outbreak of SARS, which killed more than 800 people and sickened 7,900 after it was first recognized in China in November and then spread to more than 30 other countries.

WHO spokesman Dick Thompson said he could not immediately comment. "We've been getting information from Singapore," he said. "But we're going to need a bit more."

The illness killed 33 people and sickened 328 in Singapore earlier this year.

Officials are trying to track down anyone who might have come into contact with the man and will issue them quarantine orders, Bey said.

Earlier Monday, the director general of the World Health Organization cautioned that SARS could return and warned against complacency.

"We have to prepare on the assumption that this will come back," Lee Jong-wook told the 54th annual conference in Manila of the WHO's regional committee for the Western Pacific region. "Our challenge now is to enhance surveillance networks that will detect and deal with SARS if it does come back."

In an interview with Channel NewsAsia which aired Friday, Singapore Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew said the city-state's health care system is "well-prepared" for a SARS resurgence.

"The second time around, if it comes around, we should know what to do to protect ourselves," Lee said.

The World Health Organization estimates that about 15 percent of people who contract SARS die, suggesting the illness is more deadly than influenza or other common respiratory infections. For people over 65, the death rate is about 50 percent, WHO estimates.

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