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SARS Concerns Increase with Summer Travel - 2003-04-25


China is stepping up its fight to stop the spread of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome or SARS. But fear of the deadly disease is spreading in the Chinese capital Beijing as millions of people are traveling for their annual May holiday vacations. VOA-TV’s Chris Simkins has more.

Beijing health officials shut down another hospital Friday. The third medical facility in the capital to shut its doors in recent days. Four thousand people suspected of being exposed to SARS were ordered to stay home. The actions come as China battles to contain the deadly disease that so far has killed 115 people in the country including 42 in Beijing. The government also pledged to spend 420 million dollars to set up a nationwide health network to fight SARS and other medical emergencies.

James Maguire, with the World Health Organization, met with officials in Shanghai. He called on Chinese health officials to do more to prevent future outbreaks of the flu-like illness.

JAMES MAGUIRE, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION
“We would suggest further support at this level or even greater to build up the reserve capacity to make sure that other parts of the health sector are fully covered at the same time anticipating the unexpected that may occur.”

The Chinese Government’s tough response to fighting SARS is driving people to flee the capital. The airport and main train station remained packed with holiday travelers trying to get out of town. Fear of the disease is having an impact on the economy.

This restaurant owner, visiting Beijing from Northeast China, says he has seen first hand the effects SARS is having on the capital.

UNIDENTIFIED CHINESE MAN
“All service industries such as hotels; restaurants and department stores are having a hard time. Few people are going out so no money is being spent. I’m going back to my hometown to avoid being infected here.”

Scientists suspect the outbreak of SARS may have originated on pig and poultry farms in China’s Southern Guangdong Province in November. Since then the virus has spread to more than 20 countries worldwide.

Researchers say a vaccine for SARS may not be available for years to come. Some scientists believe doctors probably will never be able to eradicate the illness but should be able limit the numbers of infections and deaths.

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