New epicentre of outbreak


BY WONG SAI WAN

HONG KONG: A usually bustling Amoy Gardens, a private housing estate here with tens of thousands of residents, has turned into a ghost town after more than 90 residents came down with the deadly atypical pneumonia. 

The estate, consisting of some 20 blocks of 37-storey apartments, has become the territory's newest epicentre of this three-week-old outbreak which also saw its 12th death late Saturday evening. 

Thousands of residents abandoned their homes and have sought alternative accommodation as the health authorities laid siege at the neighbourhood in western Kowloon.  

The speed at which the disease spread at Amoy Gardens has stumped the authorities as the first resident fell ill only three days ago. 

On Saturday, 22 residents were hospitalised, and at noon yesterday, five more were found to have also been infected. The disease is concentrated on one particular block which accounted for about 70% of the cases. 

There are over 470 people warded with the disease here. 

Health department officials set up a medical surveillance post to screen those still remaining there, and to determine the reason for the speedy spread.  

Territory health director Dr Margaret Chan said a number of patients who have recovered were still being kept in the hospitals for about one week to make sure they were not infectious before being sent home. 

Dr Chan said a majority of patients had a positive response to the treatment given to them, adding that the chance of recovery was higher than 90% if patients sought treatment early. 

She said that starting today, her department would invoke the Quarantine & Prevention of Disease Ordinance.  

Meanwhile, uthorities here have asked on Wednesday those on board Dragonair flight KA901 from Beijing to contact the health department as a fellow passenger had come down with the disease. It was the fifth flight where infections had been detected.  

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