Super-Pneumonia Hits Top Hong Kong Doctor

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:13 PM EDT

Pacific Rim Bureau ( - Asia's pneumonia-like virus has struck the head of the Hong Kong hospital at the center of the outbreak.

Dr. Fung Hung, chief executive of the Prince of Wales Hospital has been diagnosed with severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and admitted to hospital, a spokesman said on Monday.

Earlier, the hospital had to suspend accident and emergency services for a fortnight after many of its staff were infected by a SARS patient.

Health experts have warned that the territory's hospital facilities may be overwhelmed.

After mainland China, Hong Kong has been hardest-hit by the virus which has now taken almost 100 lives in Asia and Canada - about three or four percent of the total number of people infected.

Residents' hopes that the outbreak had passed its peak have been dashed by a weekend of bad news - three deaths and 39 new infections detected on Saturday, and two more deaths and 42 new cases reported on Sunday, bringing the Hong Kong toll to 842 cases and 22 deaths. About 115 people have recovered from the disease since it hit the territory last month.

The spread came despite the closure of schools and other institutions, and the quarantine of hundreds of people suspected of being infected with the virus, characterized by high fever and breathing difficulties.

The World Health Organization (WHO) last week issued its first-ever advisory warning people to avoid visiting an area because of the risk of infectious disease. It urged travelers to avoid Hong Kong and China's southern Guangdong province, where the outbreak originated and where more than 40 people have died.

On Friday, President Bush added SARS to the communicable diseases for which a person can be quarantined.

As of Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta had reported a cumulative total of 115 suspected cases of SARS in the U.S., and no deaths.

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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow