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SARS Tourist Detained Against His Will

The New York City Health Department detained a foreign tourist against his will for a week after he checked into a hospital with SARS symptoms but refused to be quarantined for the mandatory 10 days. He had stopped in Hong Kong on his way to New York. After his fever went down, he wanted to leave the hospital so he could go sightseeing and to a basketball game, but he wasn't allowed to leave.

He could have been quarantined in his own home, but since he was away from home on vacation, he had to be kept in the hospital. "It was certainly a judgment call, but our judgment was to err on the side of safety, in case he did have SARS he would not infect others in New York City," says Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden. It's not known if the man actually did have SARS, since there's no reliable test for the disease.

The NY Health Department has quarantined hundreds of tuberculosis patients in the last 25 years, especially homeless people who otherwise won't take a full course of antibiotics, which leads to antibiotic-resistant TB. Only one other person has been quarantined with another disease: a traveler in 1994 who had a suspected case of pneumonic plague.

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