15 May, 2003
All tests carried out on a young woman admitted to hospital earlier this week as a Greece's first suspected case of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) - including a molecular analysis or PCR test that can establish the presence of SARS with 100 per cent certainty - had so far failed to reveal signs of the virus, Greek health authorities said on Wednesday.
They said the 23-year-old air hostess from South Africa was not home free yet, however, since there was still a chance that she might develop antibodies that would show the SARS virus was present within the next 20 days.
Announcing the results of the latest tests, Health Minister Costas Stefanis said the patient's condition was very satisfactory but that she would remain in special quarantine facilities at Athens' Sismanoglio Hospital until doctors were sure she had not been infected.
The negative result on the molecular test further reduced the chances that the patient was a possible SARS victim but did not exclude it entirely, Stefanis told reporters.
SARS, also known as atypical pneumonia, has killed 600 people and infected more than 7,500 in over 30 countries.
The young woman, a flight attendant with Emirates Airlines, had traveled to Greece after a recent visit to Hong Kong, one of the areas hit hardest by the virus, which has no known cure.
She developed flu-like symptoms compatible with SARS shortly after her arrival and was taken to hospital with a high fever at midnight on Monday, where doctors decided to admit her to the special 'zero pressure' isolation ward designed to contain the virus.
Questioned about his decision to report the suspected SARS case to the World Health Organization (WHO), Stefanis stressed that all parties had to be informed and know everything about this disease, or Greece might find itself placed on the WHO's blacklist for hiding the truth.
With respect to precautions against the virus, the health minister pointed out that even the most stringent controls at the borders could not fully safeguard against the entry of the virus into Greece, since patients might develop symptoms after they entered the country.
He announced plans for additional precautionary measures, such as the issue of information leaflets and questionnaires to travelers during their flight instead of when they reached the airport.
In addition, airport authorities would be responsible for keeping the names and places of residence and the duration of their stay for all passengers from countries worst-hit by the disease.
He announced plans to position a specially-trained doctor who would monitor arriving passengers for signs of ill health but said the government did not intend to impose temperature measurements for all passengers.
Stefanis praised the prompt response of the Control Centre for Special Diseases to the suspected SARS case, saying it had managed to alert all people that had come into contact with the young woman over the past few days, including staff and guests at the hotel where she was staying, the doctors who treated her, the crew and all 116 passengers that were on the plane she arrived with and another 50 passengers that disembarked on Cyprus.
Source: Athens News Agency