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Stories: President Nielson's SARS Journal, Part 2

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President Nielson's SARS Journal, Part 2 22 May 2003
President Nielson sent this to me today, and gave permission to post it here:

Thomas P. Nielson
May 22, 2003
“SARS” (cont.)

Since my last journal entry regarding SARS, dated May 9th, Taiwan has rapidly surpassed Canada and Singapore to have the world's third-worst outbreak, after mainland China and Hong Kong. Since the first of May total deaths have jumped from 3 to 60, and during this same period probable cases have increased from 89 to 483. Because Taiwan uses three reporting categories rather than the standard two categories used by the World Health Organization (WHO), the 483 probable cases may in fact be twice that number. The highest concentration of the disease is in the Taipei area, though it has now spread to all general areas of the island, Kaohsiung being the second hardest hit area. The disease has also spread to the off-shore islands of Kinmen and Penghu.

Taiwan seems more and more in the grip of the SARS virus. Military trucks spraying bleach solutions roam the streets in the highly infected areas, and TV stations broadcast an endless stream of pictures of hospital wards, nurses in yellow or blue disposable gowns controlling hospital entrances or soldiers disinfecting homes. The number of quarantined citizens is in the tens of thousands, and since they feel fine the authorities are struggling to keep them in quarantine. It is common to break quarantine, which is one of the reasons SARS has spread so rapidly in Taiwan. Some blame quarantine breaking on the Taiwanese attitude towards the rule of law, saying that because Taiwan is a relatively new democracy the Taiwanese feel they can do whatever they please. Tainan officials are attaching pink hospital bracelets on the wrists of those who are quarantined, then offering a reward to citizens who see these bracelet wearing quarantine breakers outside their homes. This experiment has not yet been adopted island-wide.

Another reason for the quick outbreak is the lapses in infection control, particularly in hospital emergency rooms. Some sources say that approximately 50% of infected cases originated in a hospital; other sources put this number as high as 95%. At any rate, people are avoiding the hospitals and the hospital out-patient clinics, which have become relatively empty. Doctors and nurses are especially at risk of becoming infected and some have died. Over 200 doctors and nurses have resigned from hospital staffs and the government is trying to improve their virus protection equipment and methodology so they will stay on the job.

Our family doctor, Dr. Kao, is in quarantine until May 28th, which especially concerns us. Neither we nor the missionaries in the Taipei Mission know where to go if we were to develop SARS symptoms. We could call 119 for SARS control to send an ambulance, but that would put us directly into the main steam of infection. This problem is now being studied by the Taiwan Priesthood SARS Committee which will make recommendations.

The temple and all ward and stake member meetings are now suspended through June 1, except for bishopric meetings and presidency meetings. The Asia Area Presidency will advise if further suspension is required as they continue to monitor the situation with SARS. Although missionaries in the three missions are presently returning home according to schedule, all new missionaries are being detained until Taiwan becomes relatively SARS free. Several members of the church have been quarantined, but only one member, the head of nursing at Ho Ping Hospital, has been infected and subsequently died.

We are canceling our speaking appointments and try to stay in our home where we work on our projects. When we do venture outside, we drive our own car and avoid public transportation and crowded places, although this is difficult when we buy groceries. The situation is becoming worse with the passing of each day, and we don’t know how much longer this will last. We thought about asking for permission to return to America until the situation in Taiwan improves, but if we do we would have to quarantine ourselves for two weeks before anyone would be willing to come near us. So we are just going to tough it out here and rely on good hygiene and common sense, along with our personal prayers and the prayers of our family and friends.

Vic Walker 葛志浩 Send Email
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