HONG KONG – The family of an American dying from a new virus confirmed Thursday they wanted him moved from a mainland hospital to Hong Kong, downplaying accusations that China was trying to avoid another foreign death.
Also Thursday, officials said that a 48-year-old man currently hospitalized in Hong Kong with the illness had recently been aboard seven Lufthansa flights, and urged his fellow passengers to seek medical attention.
Officials from China's mainland -- already criticized for their secretive handling of the fast-spreading SARS virus -- had been accused of moving the American so he wouldn't die in China.
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 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.
She said Salisbury's parents had ordered the change in hospitals and that they were taking advice from a doctor on staff with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in China. She said that doctor had spoken to the physicians at the hospital in Shenzhen, China, and in Hong Kong.
The family knew there was a chance the three-hour ambulance ride between hospitals was risky, she said, but it was a risk the family was willing to take. Ms. Salisbury said he died of a heart attack in route to Hong Kong.
"I know my father's case was one of the most severe they've seen and that he was in the worst stages of it," she said. "In China they have been able to make some people better, it just didn't work for my father."
She said the hospital in Hong Kong may have initially been reluctant to take him because the facility was already dealing with many other SARS patients.
Hong Kong's health secretary, Dr. Yeoh Eng-kiong, told reporters that Salisbury was dead on arrival. David Westbrook, a friend of Salisbury who drove behind the ambulance from the border city of Shenzhen to Hong Kong, said he showed no signs of life when he was put in the ambulance.
Westbrook said mainland doctors had given up hope of saving him and moved him so there would not be another death of a foreigner from SARS.
Health officials in Shenzhen said Salisbury was in a coma, not dead.
"We wanted to keep him in Shenzhen, but at the request of his family, we moved him to Hong Kong, where he died," Zhong Nanshan, an epidemiologist at the Guangzhou Institute of Respiratory Diseases in Guangdong's capital, told reporters in Beijing.
Salisbury's 6-year-old son, Mickey, is hospitalized in Hong Kong where he is under observation for SARS, a family member said. He is being looked after by church friends of the family.
The boy's mother is making plans to travel here to bring him home when he is well enough, according to Michelle Salisbury.
The flu-like illness continues to spread in Hong Kong and the mainland. Officials on Thursday took still more steps to try to control it, imposing strict 10-day quarantines for about 150 households of people recently infected.
The territory had previously quarantined some 240 people from a hard-hit apartment building, but some of them were released late Wednesday.
Worldwide, the disease, believed to be caused by a virus that causes the common cold, has claimed 111 lives. More than 2,700 people are infected with it. The United States reports 154 suspected cases, but no deaths.
In the Lufthansa report, passengers aboard the flights the infected man took are being urged to seek medical attention, Hong Kong's Health Department said in a news release.
The flights are: LH731 from Hong Kong to Munich on March 30; LH4316 from Munich to Barcelona on March 31; LH4303 from Barcelona to Frankfurt on April 2; LH4520 from Frankfurt to London on April 2; LH4671 from London to Munich on April 3; LH265 from Munich to Frankfurt on April 4; and LH738 from Frankfurt to Hong Kong on April 4.
Lufthansa said in a statement that it was notifying passengers and staff who had "direct contact" with the man and that it had already disinfected the aircraft.
"The probability of being infected during a flight with the SARS virus is very low, according to the current state of knowledge," it added.
Lufthansa said the ill man was Chinese but his nationality and other details weren't available.
Other Asian governments invoked new precautions Thursday to contain the virus, whose symptoms include fever, aches, dry cough and shortness of breath.
Malaysia started denying visas to most Hong Kong people. Taiwan said medical staff would check the temperatures of all passengers arriving at Taipei's international airport and quarantine those with fever. Symptoms of SARS include fever, shortness of breath, coughing, chills and body aches.
Singapore announced a mandatory 10-day quarantine for guest workers arriving from affected countries, while keeping a closer eye on people under quarantine with cameras and wrist tags.
Southeast Asian finance ministers postponed a meeting in Manila planned for later this month because of SARS fears.
Thailand eased up a bit on Thursday, saying tourists arriving from countries affected by SARS are no longer required to wear masks, as a World Health Organization official praised the country's efforts to prevent the illness.
Mainland China and Hong Kong have reported the highest numbers of infections and deaths from the disease. Deaths also have been reported in Canada, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia.
A brief statement from China's Health Ministry on Thursday raised the SARS death toll by two.
In Canada, meanwhile, Prime Minister Jean Chretien had lunch Thursday in a Chinatown restaurant in Toronto and urged others to do the same to ease concern about SARS in Chinese communities.
Chinese-Canadian groups complain the stigma of SARS has severely reduced business. Most of Canada's 253 probable or suspected SARS cases are in Toronto, where health authorities reported 11 more probable and suspected cases Thursday. At least 10 people have died from SARS in Canada.