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WHO: SARS Outbreaks Have 'Peaked' in HK, Singapore, Vietnam, Canada - 2003-04-28

A World Health Organization official says SARS outbreaks in Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam, and Canada have peaked, but the worst is yet to come in China.

David Heymann, the World Health Organization chief of communicable diseases, said SARS has peaked in Hong Kong, Singapore, Hanoi, and Toronto. The WHO said Hanoi appears to have stopped the outbreak completely in Vietnam.

Dr. Heymann said the situation is different in mainland China. "The SARS outbreak is of significantly high magnitude in China, and our concern is that it may also be spreading to western provinces where there is a less strong health system than there is in the rest of China," he said.

His comments were made in Bangkok, the day before an emergency summit on SARS called by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

In Hong Kong, which has the world's second-largest outbreak, the number of new cases each day continues to fall.

The city reported 14 new cases, its lowest daily increase in more than a month.

Hong Kong's leader Tung Chee-hwa acknowledges the declining figures. "Thanks to the efforts of the whole community particularly our medical and nursing staff, the number of new infections cases is stabilizing and even showing a downward trend," Mr. Tung said.

Earlier this month, international health experts warned the situation in Hong Kong was dire, with 40 or more new cases appearing each day.

The government instituted quarantines and mandatory cleaning measures to fight the spread.

Hong Kong has reported 1,557 SARS cases, of which 710 patients have recovered and 138 have died.

In mainland China, where the disease is thought to have originated, hundreds of new cases are reported daily. WHO officials say outbreaks in Beijing and other major cities have yet to peak.

China has announced 290 new suspected cases of SARS. The country has reported a total of 3,100 cases, with 139 deaths. WHO officials in Beijing say they are still awaiting crucial information from Chinese authorities, despite a promise for more open reporting.

The disease causes a serious and sometime deadly form of pneumonia. It has infected about 5,000 people worldwide, killing at least 300.