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Philippines isolates three over suspected SARS case
( 2004-01-05 16:15) (Agencies)

The Philippines isolated a woman and her husband on suspicion she contracted SARS while working as a maid in Hong Kong, but health officials said Monday it was too early to confirm she had the deadly virus.

The 41-year-old Filipino woman was being treated for pneumonia and her husband had a fever. The doctor who initially treated her was isolated as a precautionary measure but had shown no symptoms.

"We have to know if this pneumonia comes from SARS," said Dr Luningning Villa, a spokeswoman for the health department. "Now she is still a suspected SARS case, not a probable case yet."

The results of tests on the woman for the flu-like virus that causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome would not be known until at least Tuesday, Villa said.

The woman was being considered a potential SARS case because of the X-ray findings of pneumonia and her history of travel from Hong Kong, which was hard-hit last year by an outbreak of the virus that swept out of southern China.

Officials were tracing the contact history of the woman, who arrived in her hometown of Louisiana, south of Manila, from Hong Kong on December 20.

Thousands of Filipino women work in Hong Kong as nurses and domestic helpers, part of a diaspora of at least seven million overseas workers who prop up the economy by sending money back to their families.

During the SARS outbreak last year that killed about 800 people when it was spread around the world by travelers, the Philippines was able to limit its death toll to two by beefing up screening at its borders.

Fears of a resurgence over the northern winter have been sparked by the infection of two medical researchers, one in Taiwan and the other at a laboratory in Singapore.

Chinese officials are also testing a television producer suspected of carrying a mutated strain of SARS.

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