Emergencies preparedness, response

Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in Singapore - update

16 September 2003

Disease Outbreak Reported

In Singapore, the 27-year-old medical researcher who worked in a virology laboratory is now considered a WHO laboratory-confirmed case of SARS coronavirus (CoV) infection.

Laboratory results from the case, which was first identified by Singapore health authorities, have now been confirmed by another laboratory in the SARS network, in this case by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. WHO hopes that when such sporadic cases arise they will be independently confirmed by an external laboratory in the SARS laboratory network.

The patient developed fever, was hospitalized, isolated and his fever has now resolved. Contacts have been traced and all continue to be healthy. Singapore officials have notified WHO that the patient will be released Wednesday and placed in home quarantine for 14 days.

The Singapore case is mild, isolated and has not produced secondary cases, and therefore is not regarded as an international public health concern.

In relation to SARS, Singapore continues to be a safe destination for travellers, and travellers from Singapore pose no risk to other countries.

Speculation about the source of the patient’s infection has centered on a workplace exposure in a Singapore laboratory.

However, an international team of experts began work today examining laboratory safety issues surrounding the case. An 11-member panel, chaired by Dr. Antony Della-Porta, an Australian biosafety expert, will review lab safety issues in Singapore and make recommendations. The panel’s investigation is expected to be completed next week.

Internationally, WHO will be addressing the issue of laboratory safety at its meeting of SARS scientific advisors next month in Geneva.