HONG KONG (AP)
- A SARS
patient with diarrhea infected other people in a Hong Kong
apartment complex as the disease apparently spread into homes
through a sewage pipe linked to poorly sealed water drains, an
official report said Thursday.
More people who came down with severe acute respiratory
syndrome in Block E of the Amoy Gardens apartments also got
diarrhea, creating huge amounts of contaminated feces that
spread the virus through pipes in Hong Kong's biggest outbreak
of the flu-like illness, said the health secretary, Dr. Yeoh
Rats and cockroaches also may have spread SARS, but only
incidentally after they picked it up around the apartments, Yeoh
told a news conference.
"They were just passive, mechanical carriers," Yeoh said,
adding that rats captured by the investigators did not come down
with SARS symptoms.
There is no evidence of airborne transmission, Yeoh said.
At least 324 people were infected in Amoy Gardens, where SARS
was also apparently spread through person-to-person contact and
in common areas, such as elevators, lobbies and staircases,
according to the report made by several Hong Kong government
The SARS outbreak in Amoy Gardens has been the most alarming
in Hong Kong, where the disease has infected 1,297 people and
killed at least 65. Four new deaths and 29 new cases were
About 40 per cent of the SARS cases in Amoy Gardens came from
one building, called Block E, that was evacuated at one point
with all of its residents moved into holiday camps that were
turned into makeshift quarantine centres.
The disease was brought to Amoy Gardens by an infected man
who visited his brother there on March 14 and March 19, Yeoh
said. The outbreak peaked in Block E on March 24 and there was a
lag of about three days later before it spread to residents of
Yeoh said that once the virus got into the waste pipe in
Block E, droplets that carried it apparently moved up through
people's bathroom drains when U-shaped water seals dried out.
Fans apparently helped suck the virus particles into homes, he
One resident of Block E told The Associated Press the
report's findings sounded right and she called on officials to
focus on calming the public and stopping the spread of SARS.
"We have long suspected it could be problems with the sewage
system - the apartments are so close together," said Anna Yuen,
45, who lives in Block E with her husband and three children.
"We were scared at first but after the isolation, we haven't
seen any outbreak like what we had before," Yuen said by
telephone. "I believe the situation has come under control."
But Yuen said she'd give the government's handling of the
crisis just "70 marks out of 100."
"They have not been quick enough in calming the public," Yuen
The pneumonia-like illness has killed at least 166 people and
infected about 1,300 worldwide. Mainland China has reported 65
deaths as has Hong Kong. Singapore has 15 SARS death, Canada 13,
Vietnam five, Thailand two and Malaysia one.
Meanwhile, the world's second most populous country reported
its first SARS case on Thursday.
Authorities in India said a 32-year-old man in the western
state of Goa contracted the disease after travelling to Hong
Kong and Singapore, S.P. Agarwal, the government's director
general of health services, told a news conference.
Prashil Varde, an Indian marine engineer, returned home to
Goa on April 3, he was treated by a private doctor for cough and
fever, two of the symptoms of SARS, said Dr. Shivlal, director
of the National Institute of Communicable Diseases. He uses only
The man and his wife, who has not tested positive for the
virus, have been isolated, Agarwal said.
The World Health Organization has said scientists have
confirmed the identity of the SARS virus, in a key step toward
finding drugs to fight it.
In Singapore, airline passengers arriving from some SARS-stricken
areas were being scanned for fever by military-grade equipment
adapted for the war on SARS.
Those who show up on the camera screen as "hot bodies," or
with a temperature greater than 37.5 C, will be pulled aside to
have their temperature taken by a nurse, said Evelyn Ong, a
spokeswoman at the Defence Science and Technology Agency.
In Beijing, universities said Thursday they have cancelled
activities and some classes to prevent the spread of SARS,
breaking with earlier official insistence on continuing public
© Copyright 2003 The Canadian Press
confirmation of SARS-sewage link:
Newsday - May 1, 2003
SARS fatality rate 55%
for aged-60 and above:
The New York Times - May 7,
W.H.O. Cumulative Count:
- (May 24, 2003):
W.H.O., SARS tracking page
to three mammalian species, through sewage:
Toronto Star, May 23, 2003