Suspected SARS Carrier Cleared to Go Home

A boy suspected of suffering from severe acute respiratory syndrome was released from the hospital Saturday night after going 48 hours without a fever or coughing, health officials said Sunday.

Officials from the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization said Sunday the 16-year-old SARS suspect, held in isolation at Phnom Penh’s Cal­mette Hospital since Wednesday, was released to his family.

A diagnostic test conducted by the Pasteur Institute to identify genome strains of the SARS coronavirus was negative, said Dr Jean Baptiste Dufourcq, Calmette Hospital’s emergency room and intensive care unit supervisor. The test is not a foolproof meth­od to diagnose SARS, however, since only some strains of the coron­avirus that causes SARS, have been identified as a standard against which suspect samples may be compared.

“We have no proof that it is SARS,” Dufourcq said, admitting that doctors also had no proof that the boy’s disease is not SARS.

For security purposes, health officials will check the temperatures of the patient and his family twice daily until Friday, said the Health Ministry’s Dr Ly Sovann. The WHO’s Dr Severin Von Xy­lander said the boy would remain a SARS suspect until the end of the month but would not be isolated in the hospital since the probability of him carrying SARS is minimal.

Health officials became aware of the boy’s status after he re­turned from a three-month stay in Chi­na’s Guangdong province with a cough and diarrhea. Two days before leaving China on May 16, he reportedly had an un­docu­mented fever, the ministry said.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday told Cambo­dians and foreigners not to worry about SARS in Cambodia. “I still am not wearing a mask, so don’t be afraid. There is no SARS,” he said at a pagoda ceremony in Prey Chhor district, Kompong Cham province.

(Ad­dit­ional reporting by Kim Chan)

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