Suspected SARS case ‘negative’

Health Minister Costas Stefanis said yesterday that molecular tests on a South African flight attendant hospitalized in Athens with symptoms similar to those of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) have proved to be negative. However, the 23-year-old woman, whose condition has improved, is to stay in the Sismanogleio hospital pending further results from an antibody test. «To be 100 percent sure, we have to have the final results of the urological tests, which will not be ready for another two weeks,» said Stefanis yesterday. The minister also announced additional measures aimed at informing airline travelers entering the country on what action to take if they may have been in contact with persons suffering from SARS or if they themselves have symptoms. Information leaflets issued to passengers on arrival will from now on be distributed during the flight and cards filled in on arrival, giving their address in Greece and the length of their stay. More medical staff will also be stationed at entry points and briefings given to medical personnel and employees in the tourism industry who are likely to come in contact with people suspected of suffering from the syndrome. Meanwhile, Greek travelers have been canceling bookings to Asian tourist destinations such as Bali, Singapore and Thailand, turning instead to destinations such as the Maldives, Mauritius and the Caribbean. «This is worrying as early summer is when most honeymoons take place, generally to Asian countries,» said Antonis Karelas of the TUI agency. Travel to the Middle and Far East is down by 60 percent since the beginning of the year, according to the Mid East travel bureau.

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