updated 7/31/2007 10:35:45 AM ET 2007-07-31T14:35:45

Two Taiwanese tuberculosis patients who sparked a health scare by defying a travel ban to fly to China have been brought back, an official said Tuesday.

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Chou Chih-hao, deputy chief of the Health Department, said the married couple, only identified as surnamed Lee, will be placed in quarantine until physicians determine they are not infectious.

The Lees violated Taiwanese regulations and flew from the southern Taiwanese city Kaohsiung to Hong Kong, and then on to Nanjing on July 21. Officials say they went to China to visit their future daughter-in-law.

The two, a 55-year-old man suffering from a drug-resistant form of tuberculosis and his 57-year-old wife who has standard tuberculosis and is infectious, were found by Jiangsu provincial health officials.

On Saturday, an ambulance took the couple to Fuzhou, a coastal city in southeastern China, then put them on a boat to Taiwan-held Kinmen Island, Chou said. A medical helicopter is taking them to Taipei.

Chou said the Lees could be fined up to $10,000 for ignoring the travel ban and will be asked to repay all expenses of their return.

Hong Kong’s health department is tracking down passengers who sat near the infected couple and flight crew members, but it said the risk of TB transmission is low because the flight was only three hours long, shorter than the eight-hour threshold set by the World Health Organization.

The latest case echoes a similar one in the United States earlier this year, when Atlanta attorney Andrew Speaker caused an international health scare after he flew to Europe after he had been told he had a drug-resistant form of tuberculosis.

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