HONG KONG: Paramedics and rescue workers rushed 10 crew members of a Malaysian cargo vessel who had SARS-related symptoms to hospital yesterday after the ship made an emergency stop in Hong Kong.
Covered from head to toe in white protective gear, the medical staff boarded the Bunga Melawis Satu and examined all 24 members of its crew shortly after the vessel anchored off outlying Lamma Island.
Three doctors who examined the crew did not detect fever in any of them, although they had complained of fever, cough and body ache – all symptoms associated with SARS – while at sea after leaving Thailand on April 28, Hong Kong assistant director of health Cindy Lai told reporters.
Agencies reported that the 10 crew members hopped onto the rescue ship parked alongside the cargo vessel unaided, with some flashing the victory sign.
“No one had any fever today although they have been taking fever pills and antibiotics.
“But we can’t dismiss that they may have SARS, as long as we can’t determine what they are suffering from. We will need to make more checks, take X-rays and blood tests for the 10, who are being sent to hospital,” Lai said.
She added that the remaining 14 crew would be quarantined for 10 days on the vessel.
The captain of the vessel, which was originally bound for Guangzhou, made the emergency appeal to dock in Hong Kong.
Port authorities received a distress call from the ship on Friday when it was 100 nautical miles south-east of Hainan.
The Hong Kong Marine Department had recommended the ship land at the nearest port of call, which would have been Yangjiang in southern China.
However, the vessel decided to sail to Hong Kong.
A port source in Hong Kong said the ship had been in Singapore and Malaysia just before it docked in Thailand.
“The crew appear to have fallen ill while at sea after leaving Thailand,” he added.
It is not known how or where the sick crew members, all of Indian origin, contracted their illnesses.
In Petaling Jaya, Malaysia International Shipping Corporation Bhd officials said they were still waiting for confirmation from Hong Kong but it was unlikely that the 10 crew members were Malaysians.
When contacted, a staff at Princess Margaret Hospital in Hong Kong said they were unable to determine the nationalities of the crew members, who had been admitted without documents.
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