Sat, 12 Apr 2003

RI reports first probable case of SARS

Evi Mariani, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Indonesia recorded one probable case of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) on Friday, and appeared for the first time on the World Health Organization (WHO)'s cumulative list of SARS cases.

"The man with the probable SARS case is an English citizen, aged 47. At present he is being treated in the hospital and his condition is reportedly improving," Syafii Ahmad, spokesman for the Ministry of Health's SARS verification team, said during a media conference here on Friday.

A probable SARS case, according to WHO, refers to someone who has a history of travel in SARS-affected areas, displays symptoms resembling those of SARS and shows indications of pneumonia in a chest X-ray.

Syafii said the man had been in isolation at the Sulianto Saroso Infectious Diseases Hospital in North Jakarta since April 9. The government received confirmation that he was a probable SARS case on Friday.

The man had traveled to Hong Kong and Singapore before arriving in Indonesia, where he fell ill with SARS-like symptoms and had a chest X-ray that showed indications of pneumonia.

During the media conference, which also was attended by head of the SARS team of experts Hadiarto, head of the SARS verification team Tjandra Yoga, and head of the SARS investigation team Sardikin Giriputro, Syafii said a team was studying the man's movements in Indonesia to find out with whom he had come into contact.

"The investigation team is tracking his movements while he was here," Syafii said.

The director general for communicable diseases at the Ministry of Health, Umar Fahmi Achmadi, who is the second highest authority on SARS after the health minister, told The Jakarta Post that the general public should not panic because of this new development.

"We are continuing to monitor developments. So far, we have not seen any community-transferred cases like those in Hong Kong.

"So, as of today, we are not requiring citizens to wear masks. It is OK to be cautious, but we have not yet seen any need (for masks)," he said.

He said there would be little change in the government's measures to curb the spread of SARS.

"We have been anticipating such a development since last week. I mean, although previously we had not yet recorded any probable cases, we were still applying intensive (preventive) measures," he said. "So as of today, when one probable case has emerged, we will just continue doing what we have been doing up to this point."

In providing information about SARS cases, the government has changed its terminology several times. First it adopted the terms "suspected" and "confirmed". It then added the term "observed" to the dictionary, only to erase it. Now it is using the WHO terms "suspected", "probable" and "confirmed", combining these with a term of its own, "reported".

"Reported" is used for any SARS case that has not yet been investigated. "Suspected" refers to a reported patient who feels ill and has recently been in SARS-affected areas. "Confirmed" is used for a patient whose blood tests have positively identified the presence of the coronavirus responsible for SARS.

Besides the one probable case on Friday, the verification team also received information on four reported cases. This raised the total number of reported SARS cases to 29, of which 19 have been cleared of SARS.

Ten suspected SARS patients are now hospitalized. There is one probable and five reported cases at the Sulianto Saroso Infectious Diseases Hospital, one suspected case at the Banyumas Regional Hospital in Central Java, one reported case at Surakarta's Muwardi Hospital, one reported case at Pekanbaru's Dumai Hospital in Riau and one reported case at Mataram Hospital in West Nusa Tenggara.