Image: Masked Nurse Enters Ward
A masked nurse enters the outpatient ward of the Singapore General Hospital on Tuesday. A Singaporean man who had been warded at the hospital has been confirmed to have SARS.
updated 9/9/2003 12:23:20 AM ET 2003-09-09T04:23:20

Singapore health officials said Tuesday that further testing of a local man for severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, has confirmed that he has the illness. “It appears to be a single isolated case,” a statement from the Ministry of Health said.

The case is Singapore’s first in four months.

It is not yet known how the 27-year-old Singaporean laboratory technician contracted the illness. He is a postdoctoral student working on the West Nile virus, the ministry said.

Twenty-five people who came in contact with the man have been issued home quarantine orders, it said.

Acting Minister of Health Khaw Boon Wan told reporters at a press conference that the man had no recent travel history and no known contact with any SARS patients.

Khaw said he thought the man posed a “low public health risk” because he was isolated quickly.

RETURN OF SARS?

The case may mark the return of SARS, which killed more 900 people worldwide after it first emerged last November in China. More than 8,400 people were sickened before WHO declared in June that the disease had been “stopped dead in its tracks.”

However, officials from the World Health Organization were hesitant to say the case was the start of a fresh epidemic.

By WHO’s current definition of a probable case, there must be at least two SARS patients reported in the same hospital environment.

WHO regional spokesman Peter Cordingley said in the Philippines that Singapore officials have already traced people who were in contact with the man, “and none of them is sick.”

Earlier Tuesday, Hitoshi Oshitani, WHO regional adviser for communicable disease surveillance and response, said specimen samples from the man have been sent to different laboratories overseas to verify the initial PCR — polymerase chain reaction — test that was positive for the virus.

Oshitani said the man apparently did not specifically work on the SARS virus but that Singapore officials are checking whether he could have had contact with it in the laboratory.

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