Doctors Without Borders Expands SARS Intervention in Vietnam

Hanoi/Brussels, April 2, 2003 – Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) is re-enforcing its team in the Bach Mai Hospital in Hanoi, Vietnam. The team, in place since March 19, is helping to contain the illness known as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which has already killed 75 people and infected over 1800 worldwide.

The 6-person MSF team has set up an isolation wing in the hospital with a capacity for 100 patients. They are also providing training in isolation and protection techniques for the local medical staff, and will give psychological support to staff and patients.

"MSF has a great deal of experience in the isolation of diseases, and our presence has been important for the local hospital staff, many of whom are understandably apprehensive about treating this mysterious illness," explains William Claus, who set up the emergency intervention in Hanoi for MSF.

MSF has dispatched 200 antibiotic and 100 antiviral treatments to Hanoi. The isolation wing has thus far treated 58 patients suspected of being afflicted with SARS. While 4 patients have died, 27 have been discharged.

"In our treatment we are not just concentrating on the medical aspects," explains Claus, "we have also put a psychological care program in place, not just to help the patients recover from the trauma of their illness, but also to deal with the isolation they have to endure."

At the moment, according to William Claus, the number of new suspected cases seems to be decreasing in the Bach Mai hospital. However, MSF will continue to closely monitor the situation since little information is available about the spread of the illness in the community.

In addition, in Hong Kong, one of areas most affected by the illness, MSF is organizing a team of medical volunteers who will work on community level to conduct educational seminars about the basic facts of SARS and its prevention.