The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Indian crew of cruiser in virus shadow
- Woman under observation in Malaysia resort, man in Singapore hospital

Singapore, April 11 (Reuters): Two Indian crew members on a luxury liner may have been struck by the deadly SARS virus as the ship and hundreds of its passengers sailed to ports in Southeast Asia, operator Star Cruises Ltd said today.

The two crew members, including a 26-year-old woman, were being treated as suspect SARS cases, one in a hospital in Singapore and the other in Malaysia’s resort island of Langkawi, said Star Cruises spokeswoman Lim Lily.

(Before this only one case of an Indian SARS suspect has been reported, in Calcutta, where the patient is in hospital in a stable condition.)

The passengers had been tested and were well, the Star Cruises spokeswoman said.

Superstar Virgo left Singapore on April 6 and arrived the next day in Langkawi, where the woman was hospitalised, she said.

“Based on the latest available reports, the crew has responded positively to medication and the crew is expected to be discharged from the hospital in a day or two pending confirmation of further medical results,” Star Cruises said.

If confirmed, the Indian woman would be only the fourth person Malaysia has discovered to be suffering from the deadly flu-like virus, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, although 27 people are in hospital awaiting the results of tests.

The woman had been in hospital since April 7, Ismail Merican, Malaysian deputy director-general of health, told a news conference. “She is in stable condition and recovering.”

“Thirteen crew members of the ship have been quarantined on the ship at Port Klang,” he said.

The Virgo sailed from Langkawi to the tropical Thai island of Phuket on April 8, before finally returning the next day with 625 passengers and 1,354 crew to Singapore, where the man was sent to hospital as a suspected SARS case, Lim said.

“The crew member is still under observation after being classified as a SARS suspect case,” the Maritime Port Authority of Singapore said in a statement.

Hundreds of passengers leaving the ship in Singapore were not medically screened or had their temperature taken, Lim said.

“At that point, no, we did not realise he was going to be a suspected SARS case,” said Lim. “When he was taken off board there wasn’t any special arrangement to screen the passengers.”

Star visually screens all passengers anyway as standard procedure, she said.

Meanwhile, the Superstar Virgo continued its journey, leaving Singapore on April 9, carrying 814 passengers for Malaysia, where 13 crew were quarantined, and then returning to Singapore on Friday, officials in Singapore and Malaysia said.

At that point, passengers had been more thoroughly screened, and those on the ship since Phuket had their temperature taken, Lim said. “They were all well,” the Star Cruises spokeswoman added.

Singapore has the world’s fourth-highest number of SARS cases, with 133 confirmed infections and 82 suspected ones. Nine people have died from the illness in less than a month, and 77 have recovered.

The SARS health scare could deal a blow to Malaysia’s key tourism sector. At least 112 people have died worldwide from SARS, including one in Malaysia.

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