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As SARS Spreads, So Does Worldwide Fear to the Disease - 2003-04-04


More nations across the globe are taking heightened precautions to fight the spread of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS. At least 81 people have died. More than 2300 others are sick from the flu-like virus that has spread to 18 countries and territories. Robert Raffaele has more.

At Bangkok Airport in Thailand, nurses are giving passengers arriving from areas hit hard by SARS, such as China’s Guangdong Province, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, thorough ckeck-ups.

Those with symptoms of the disease face immediate deportation. Visitors are forced to wear masks for two weeks, or face a stiff fine. Some passengers Thursday were clearly indignant. Many others were frightened.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN
“I think it’s kind of crazy, they said that my temperature is like 105.”

Those with symptoms they couldn’t explain faced at least a 24-hour quarantine in an Army barracks once used to treat drug addicts.

In Tokyo, airline passengers arriving from regions affected by SARS are receiving warning notices about the illness, as well as surgical masks.

Friday, Japanese health authorities announced that citizens with the illness would be forcibly hospitalized if they refused treatment. The government is also warning people not to travel to Hong Kong and China’s Guangdong province, except in emergencies.

The illness could have a harsh impact on industries throughout Asia, according to economic analyst Graham Davis.

GRAHAM DAVIS, ECONOMIST CORPORATE NETWORK
“What you’re going to see overseas is the decline of business travel, concentrated particularly in Hong Kong, the restaurant business, anywhere, where people congregate. Those businesses are being hit. And you’re going to see people reducing their forecast for Chinese GDP by half a percent already, Hong Kong GDP probably by about 1 percent, so yes, it’s already had a significant impact.”

In Beijing, many travelers arriving from Guangdong province, where the virus first surfaced last November, were not wearing surgical masks Thursday.

China’s Health Minister disputed claims that Beijing did not notify the rest of the world soon enough about the spreading illness.

He insisted the disease is not a threat to tourists, and said China is cooperating fully with visiting medical researchers from the World Health Organization. Those researchers claim they have not been guaranteed full access to local hospitals, while touring the Guangdong province.

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