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Filipino awaits SARS test results

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MANILA (CNN) -- The top health official in the Philippines said it would be at least one more day before the test results are available for a suspected SARS case.

The patient is a 42 year old Philippine woman who returned to the Philippines December 20 from Hong Kong where she is employed as a domestic worker.

The woman was hospitalized on New Year's day suffering from a moderate to high grade fever, was having difficulty breathing and had a cough -- classic symptoms of SARS, but also of other respiratory ailments, said Dr. Ning Ville, the Philippine SARS spokeswoman.

She has been diagnosed with atypical pneumonia and is being held in isolation at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Manila -- charged with tracking the nation's SARS cases.

The results of blood tests taken for the coronavirus, which causes SARS, are expected late Wednesday or into Thursday.

Health Department Secretary Manuel Dayrit told reporters Tuesday that the woman's status has not changed -- meaning she's still a suspected SARS case -- but her condition has greatly improved.

The woman's family has also been placed under isolation.

Her husband has a fever, cough and an acute upper respiratory infection. The woman's three children have not shown any symptoms.

Also under a 10-day isolation are 34 employees of the provincial hospital, who came in contact with the woman.

The woman's contacts since late December are being traced in Hong Kong as well, health officials said, and others may be placed under isolation.

She first exhibited symptoms December 24, four days after arriving from Hong Kong -- an area flagged by health officials as a possible reemergence area for the virus.

Unlike influenza, SARS has no known treatment and little is still known of its origins other than it sprang up in China's Guangdong province in November last year.

SARS killed 774 people worldwide and sickened nearly 8,100 before subsiding in June.

The flu-like illness claimed 349 lives on China's mainland and more than 5,000 were stricken.

There have been three other confirmed cases of SARS since the WHO declared the epidemic over earlier this year.

One case was confirmed in Guangdong Monday. Another case was in Singapore in September and the other in Taiwan in November, both involving researchers working with the virus.

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