Indonesia's response to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic appears to be finally getting into gear, despite an intial degree of confusion on how exactly to confront the illness which has infected over 2,300 people worldwide and resulted in at least 84 certified deaths.
Growing Awareness of the Health Threat
On Friday, April 4, 2003, the same day that Indonesia's Minister of Health, Achmad Suyudi declared SARS as a national epidemic, Indonesia's Vice-President Hamzah Haz said that the disease represented a national emergency.
Similarly, the Coordinating Minister for the People's Welfare, Yusuf Kalla is continually updating President Megawati Soekarnoputri on the latest developments in connection with the disease. According to Kalla, "the President has asked that the maximum steps be taken (to prevent the spread of the disease), including examining all arriving passengers entering Indonesia." Kalla added, "those suspected of suffering from SARS will be quarantined in area hospitals" specially designated to treat and prevent the spread of the epidemic.
5 Suspected Cases
As of Saturday, April 5, 2003, the Government has identified 5 "suspected" cases of SARS – one of whom has died. The first suspected case was detected on the island of Batam, near Singapore, in a female migrant worker returning to Batam from her employment in Singapore. The second case involved a woman who developed flu-like symptoms after being visited by a Singaporean, later diagnosed with the disease. The third incident involved a migrant worker who died of multiple organ failure at a Jakarta Hospital, but who's x-rays indicated to be free of pneumonia. The remaining two cases also involved migrant workers returning to Indonesia from Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Press reports state that the Government has asked the assistance of the Center for Disease Control in the U.S.A. to assist in examining the laboratory tests of all suspected Indonesian cases of SARS.
Special Telephone Numbers Established
The Government has established an information center on SARS at the Jakarta Hospital for Infectious Disease (RSPI). A telephone hotline has been established at ++62-21-6506568.
Bali's Sanglah General Hospital has been designated to handle any suspected cases of SARS encountered in Bali. To date there have been no suspected cases of SARS in Bali, although the Indonesian-language Bali Post reported that one Canadian fatality attributed to the disease had visited Bali on an Asian itinerary including both Hong Kong and Bali.
Hospitals throughout Bali have introduced the use of surgical mask for staff working at reception areas and in emergency treatment rooms. Masks are also in evidence at Bali's Ngurah Rai International Airport, where arriving passengers are being given health advisory cards by port health officials. The promised examination of all inbound passengers, according the local Bali press, had yet to be introduced by Friday, April 4, 2003.
In a later development, Health Authorities have reportedly assigned 15 physicians employed by the Departent of Health to stand by at Bali's ariport from Saturday, April 5th.
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