HONG KONG - In a striking example of how far and fast a virus can be carried in an era of international jet travel, health officials here announced last night that a man infected with a new respiratory disease had flown from Hong Kong to Munich, Germany; to Barcelona, Spain; to Frankfurt, Germany; to London; to Munich again; to Frankfurt again and then back to Hong Kong before entering a hospital.
The Hong Kong Department of Health appealed last night for passengers and air crews from all seven flights to contact medical professionals. A Health Department spokeswoman said it was not known yet whether the man, who is 48, had infected anyone else on the flights with severe acute respiratory syndrome.
All the flights were on Lufthansa. The airline said in a statement last night that it had disinfected all the airplanes and was calling crews and passengers.
Last night's appeal for the Lufthansa crews and passengers to come forward follows nearly a dozen such appeals by health officials and airlines. Travelers have continued to board planes while feeling unwell despite strenuous warnings from the World Health Organization and national health agencies that they not do so.
In the case announced last night, the man flew on Lufthansa Flight 731 on March 30 from Hong Kong to Munich, and traveled the next day on Flight 4316 to Barcelona, according to an itinerary released here by the Health Department. The man developed symptoms of SARS while in Barcelona.
He then traveled on Flight 4303 to Frankfurt on April 2 and to London the same day on Flight 4520. He went to Munich the next day on Flight 4671, then headed for Frankfurt on April 4 on Flight 265. He connected with Flight 738 back to Hong Kong the same day, arriving April 5.
The man checked into a hospital here Tuesday and yesterday was confirmed to have SARS.
Meanwhile, a new accusation against China collapsed when the family of an American who died from SARS confirmed that they had requested he be moved from a mainland hospital to one in Hong Kong.
Chinese officials - who have been criticized for their secretive handling of the fast-spreading SARS virus - had been accused of moving the American to avoid the death of another foreigner.
And Hong Kong's health secretary said James Salisbury, a 52-year-old instructor from Utah, was already dead when he arrived in Hong Kong on Wednesday.
But Salisbury's eldest daughter in Utah confirmed what Chinese health authorities had said all along.
"We heard the hospital in Hong Kong had specialists that were treating people with SARS, and we thought there might be other things that could be done to help him get better," said Michelle Salisbury of Orem, Utah.
James Salisbury's 6-year-old son, Mickey, is hospitalized in Hong Kong, where he is under observation for SARS, a family member said. The boy's mother is making plans to travel here to bring him home when he is well enough, Michelle Salisbury said.
Worldwide, the disease has claimed 111 lives and infected more than 2,700 people.
The illness continued to spread in China and Hong Kong yesterday, as governments throughout Asia increased preventive measures.
In Hong Kong, where SARS has killed 30 and infected almost 1,000, strict 10-day quarantines were imposed for about 150 households of people recently infected.
Malaysia started denying visas to most Hong Kong residents. And Taiwan said medical staff would check the temperatures of all passengers arriving at Taipei's international airport and would quarantine those with fever.
Also yesterday, China's health officials said they are checking the accuracy of their official figures on the number of SARS cases, which have been questioned for weeks by international public health experts.
China reported two more deaths yesterday, bringing its number of deaths to 55 and number of cases to 1,290.
The central government in Beijing relies on provinces and municipalities to report their cases. Given the bureaucratic culture in China of not wanting to report bad news to superiors, Ma Xiaowei, the vice minister of health, said yesterday that teams of experts are being dispatched to provinces to monitor local authorities.
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